Twitter axes Buy Button, what does this mean for Social Commerce?

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By Vlad Vidaeff

How often do you use social media to make purchases?  Social commerce, the intersection between social media and commerce, has become a strategic focus for many social media platforms.  Breaking off from the pack, Twitter has decided to ax its buy button.  This blog will analyze whether this decision will prove ominous for the future of social commerce.

The 2016 Future of Retail Study found that only 6% of consumers were likely to make a purchase on Twitter.  The vast majority were not even aware that Twitter has had a buy button for quite some time.  In explaining its rationale, Twitter’s leadership stated that it had opted to focus on live interactions rather than e-commerce.  Twitter’s decision is a departure from other social media leaders who continue to make social commerce a priority.  However, most other major platforms have not received the same level of pressure that Twitter has from investors and critics.  Facebook, for example, has a call to action button with prominent visibility on business pages.  Retail companies can link the call to action button directly to their website so consumers have easy access.  In an earlier blog, we discussed Facebook’s introduction of bots to Facebook Messenger.  Companies that use bots have the capability of allowing consumers to make purchases directly in the app.  The convenience goes to Facebook’s vision of making the platform an immersive and multi-faced experience.  Mark Zuckerberg promulgated this vision at Facebook’s recent F8 developer conference.  Rather than going to several different websites, what if you could take care of everything you need directly in Facebook?  Social media, e-commerce, and various other services all in one centralized location.

Probably the most striking example of the potential effectiveness of social commerce is Pinterest.   The visual nature of the platform as well as the way in which pins are shared make it a great avenue for promoting your products.  According to a study performed by market research firm Millward Brown, 93% of Pinterest users have used the platform to plan for purchases (inspirations and/or direct purchases) while 87% of users have purchased something because they saw it on the platform.  There are more than 20,000 Buyable Pins on Pinterest and the network has no plans to slow down.

By dissolving the team that focused on social commerce, Twitter will reinvest those resources on initiatives including customer service and dynamic product ads.  Twitter believes that these areas of focus are a better natural fit for the uniqueness of its platform compared to social commerce.  Will Twitter falling out of the race have a long-term negative impact on social commerce?  Overall, social commerce has yet to have as much success as predicted.  Social media platforms have not backed away.  The convenience factor is too promising.  Consumers have become increasingly annoyed by the proliferation of apps and the necessity of having tens and tens of different apps on their phones.  As consumers become more comfortable with making purchases on their smartphones, they will likely appreciate the ease of completing multiple tasks on the same app or platform.  Given the small screen size, compared to tablets and desktop computers, the aforementioned factors increase in importance.  It’s not terribly difficult to envision a future where you chat with your friends on Facebook Messenger, catch up on the news and your friends’ lives on Facebook, buy a new dress from your favorite retailer directly through Facebook, and order an Uber to make it to happy hour after work through Facebook.  Why Facebook?  Facebook is uniquely positioned to reach this level of prominence as they are the number one social media platform (with 900 million active monthly users) and the number one messaging app (Facebook Messenger).  Simply put, Facebook has the resources and the leadership to evolve into this dynamic platform.


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