Will Social Commerce & Mobile Pay change the way we shop?



Twitter has recently announced that it has begun testing a “Buy” button which allows users to make purchases without leaving the social media site. “For a small percentage of US users, that will grow over time, some Tweets from our test partners will feature a “Buy” button, allowing you to buy directly from the Tweet,” declared Twitter’s official blog.



Social media has become a fundamental part of our daily lives. It allows us to share events, interact with others and source information. Moreover, social networking sites keep innovating by enhancing their offerings to retain and entertain their user base.
This is indeed what Twitter is trying to do. “You can imagine how well the product would work with deals or discounts based on what users are tweeting or what they are interested in based on their follows,” said Will Stickney, Twitter Spokesperson to the travel site Skift, in a post speculating about what it would be like to buy airline tickets via Twitter - a service that is not yet available.

Therefore, the sudden appearance of a social media “Buy” button gives the consumer a feeling of exclusivity.


There is a real-time component to Twitter that isn’t replicated elsewhere.

Twitter had previously offered promotion based e-commerce solutions. These solutions allowed users to add products to their Amazon shopping carts by mentioning the hashtag #AmazonCart. It also worked in partnership with Starbucks allowing customers to buy a $5 gift card for their friends through the social network.

With regard to the new shopping feature, Twitter is partnering with Stripe, an online payments service, in order to process transactions with "just a few taps." It is also working with several e-commerce services including The Fancy, Gumroad and Musictoday.

The most interesting question for average consumers is about the real-time nature of Twitter and whether it might produce some new interesting forms of business.

"Anything with a perishable component, temporal nature, or limited supply will thrive on Twitter," says Nathan Hubbard, Head of commerce, Twitter. "Given the speed at which a word can spread across our network, it feels like an opportunity to create a new kind of sales."

It is easy to visualize actors and musicians tweeting out about tickets for secret screenings or concerts. Also, food trucks, already popular on Twitter, might peddle items that will be sold out or stale in a few hours.

Moreover, a more significant application of Twitter's “Buy” feature could be connected to breaking news. For example, tweets about a natural disaster associated directly to a donate button. The service is still in the testing stage in the US. According to Venture Beat, it is set to go public in the beginning of 2015. Upon clicking the “Buy” button, users will be entitled to enter their shipping information and make the payment. This information will be then sent to the merchant to deliver the goods. Although the payment information is encrypted, user data like shipping and other personal records will be stored so that users can complete future purchases easily without adding their information again. This preference is optional, as users can disable this feature if they do not want Twitter to save their data. The entire process is accomplished without leaving Twitter. It is easy, fast and hassle-free.

Furthermore, with Twitter’s massively growing network, this could -and likely would- be a major game changer for eTailers, particularly SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) and emerging brands.


Facebook’s “Buy” button

Twitter is not the only player in social features. Recently, Facebook has started testing its own version of “Buy” feature.


"With this feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the 'Buy' call-to-action button on ads and page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook,” declared Facebook in a statement on its website.

How would this venture differ from previous Facebook Social commerce initiatives?

Facebook has retired “Facebook gifts” and brands have struggled to make F-commerce work for them. “Facebook Store Fronts” and “Facebook credits” are two other failing attempts for the social media giant. Only time and seamless integration into the user’s purchasing habits will determine the fate of the Facebook “Buy” feature.


The future of social shopping.

Is this the beginning of mainstream social shopping?

Today, Facebook and Twitter have started with the "Buy" button, however, other networks will eventually offer a unique spin on this feature.

In the US alone, social commerce sale is expected to reach 15 billion US dollars in 2015. Brands and retailers need to start thinking about their social selling strategy now - even before the full functionality is adopted – since their competitors would have already started!

The main question remains: Is the role of social media managers changing to a similar role of a salesman versus a community manager?
Undoubtedly, social media teams will require new skill sets. They should know when to engage in small talks and when to strategically promote a deal or special offer. They will be data-driven and will have direct impact on the bottom line.

Mobile Pay

Is it time to get rid of our credit cards?

Are consumers ready to cast off their credit cards in favor of a smartphone application?

That would be Apple's best-case scenario as it officially launches “Apple Pay”, a new mobile payment service which allows users to buy goods with their smartphones. The company is laying a bet that consumers will no longer need to carry their wallets, credit cards or cash with them.

Here is how Apple Pay works: Users walk up to a checkout line while holding their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus up to a special NFC reader. By simply pressing the fingerprint sensor, the transaction will be completed.

With this new service, Apple is trying to capitalize on the swelling mobile payments market, which is set to quadruple to 90 billion US dollar by 2017, according to Forrester Research.


"Taking out your credit card and swiping it is pretty easy," said Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of internet software and services, Apple in a conversation with CNBC. "We wanted to make something even easier than that."



Tech giants such as Apple and Google are investing billions of dollars in mobile payment solutions. They are aiming to control or manage our purchasing funnel either through partnerships from payment solution providers such as credit card companies, or independently. Mobiles and wearable devices (Smart watches for example) are on the forefront of these initiatives offering consumers easy and quick payment solutions for their purchasing needs.



So will “Apple Pay” or “Google Wallet” become the new payment standards? Probably not. Not yet at least.

According to ComScore, the iPhone's market share in the US was 41.9% in July 2014. Moreover, “Apple Pay” only works with the latest iPhone 6 model, which is likely driving that figure even lower. Also, it is essential to know that not everyone is sold on NFC. Walmart is taking a pass and Best Buy, which had NFC readers at checkout years ago, pulled them out in 2011 since it cost a lot to maintain them.

Mobile pay – Challenges

Trust, privacy, and security constitute the major challenge for Mobile Pay services. Therefore, will people entrust Apple or Google with their financial information while it took them ten years to trust their credit card provider? With a clear aim at “Apple Pay” payment solution providers, PayPal is exploiting Apple’s latest iCloud breach (leaked celebrity nude photos) and questioning Apple’s security protocols when it comes to virtual payments.

Users’ privacy can be exploited in different ways. Google and Apple claim they don't track user’s purchases for advertising purposes. Yet, according to a recent report in The Financial Times, Apple is just making $0.15 on every $100 of transactions on “Apple Pay”. That is not a huge amount of money. Thus, Apple is either hoping to make some kind of ad play and/or is trying to make its ecosystem attractive as opposed to competing ones from Google and Amazon. However, having such a low margin raises some question marks about the future intentions of these companies.










About Imad Lahad

Imad Lahad is the Director of Digital Strategy at APCO Worldwide. Based in Dubai, Imad  helps APCO’s clients in the Arab region define and implement their digital/social media strategy.

Imad is a speaker and trainer on Strategic Marketing, Digital Strategies, and Social Media with an extensive experience in media, publishing, online and franchising industries. For the past 18 years, he has been consulting and helping regional companies and clients see their businesses with a new perspective and identify new opportunities with their products and services. 

He has won a number of awards including the “Best Media Strategic Award 2013” and “Facebook Best Interactive Award 2013” for Layalina.com Facebook page as well as the “Silver Award” for Waseet’s “Look No Further” campaign in KSA.

Imad holds a Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications from ESCP-EAP Paris.


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