Why ‘Buy’ Buttons Will Pose Big Challenges for Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter

One year ago, the idea of shopping directly from Google, Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook was mostly unheard of. Today, these companies are hoping it becomes one of the hottest Internet trends over the next year. Within the last 11 months, all four of these massive digital platforms have announced plans to either test or introduce some version of a “Buy” button, salivating over the chance to turn their social networks and discovery platforms into shopping malls as well. A new battleground for the consumer Web has come into sight and these players are coming for your wallet. But for the ones like Twitter and Facebook that have been conducting public tests for some time, progress is hard to find. And for Google and Pinterest, there are significant hurdles that will stand in the way of their goal of convincing searchers and Pinners to become buyers next. Among the challenges these Goliaths face is integrating inventory and payments systems from retailers big and small that have little experience selling stuff outside of their own storefronts. They also face the challenge of convincing the people who use their service to get used to, and trust, buying stuff from their site for the first time. What’s more, they have to allay fears of retailers that they will steal the customer relationship, banishing them to glorified warehousing and shipping partners.
“Shoppers are increasingly spending more time in third-party apps,” said Razvan Roman, CEO of a software startup called TwoTap that helps apps integrate buying features. “But the problem is a lot of these apps are saying, ‘We have millions of users, so we can just put in a payment processor and people will just buy, right?’ It’s just not that simple.” The beginning of the trend came into view when Re/code first reported in January 2014 that Twitter was in talks with payments company Stripe to help process payments for a new shopping-related initiative. By July, Facebook had beaten Twitter to launch and announced a small test that would allow some small businesses to add purchase capability to some of their posts along with ads featuring their products. Twitter formally announced the launch of its Buy buttons in September, with a small selection of brands, retailers and artists. Google and Pinterest have since acknowledged they have their own plans to integrate buying capability into search ads and pinned images, respectively.

It’s about advertising

There are a few factors that pushed these platforms to this point and it’s no coincidence that all of their businesses are supported by ads. First, all of them are looking for ways to make their ads on their mobile apps and websites work better.


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