E-commerce continues its Covid-induced conquest of the digital media that surround us. The latest integration arguably should have been there all along: eCommerce-enabled tweets. A new experimental tweet format will be purpose-built for shopping, including links to a product page or Shopify store.
Twitter confirmed the experiment last week after evidence was uncovered in the wild (see below). Specifically, a new Twitter card will include a big “Shop” button and the ability to integrate product details. The layout will be optimized for shopping intent, including product name, merchant and pricing.
To be clear, merchants already use Twitter as an eCommerce channel but it’s mostly done through clever hacks and workarounds. What this new format does is formalize and standardize a way to sell one’s wares on Twitter. And with that more structured offer comes Twitter’s monetization possibilities…
Twitter is experimenting with new shopping features 🛍
A NEW Twitter Card being tested for tweets containing links to product pages on a shop's website
New-style Twitter Shopping Card shows
– Product name
– Shop name
– Product price
– 'Shop' button
<-Old | New->
— 🟣 Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) March 2, 2021
Two Roads Diverged
Going deeper on monetization, one question is how this new format plays into Twitter’s growth ambitions. Will it be sold along with the family of ad formats? Or will it be an organic tweet format that works towards Twitter’s batch of new initiatives, including attracting more creators and merchants to the platform?
Logic would dictate the former as a faster path to monetization, given Twitter’s existing advertising infrastructure. But the latter could hold more priority and political capital at Twitter. The company has been talking a big game about revenue diversification moves and eCommerce products that are coming.
For example, Twitter’s prospective “Super Follow” subscription will let users follow a given account and get subscriber-only perks like content, badges, and discounts. It’s correspondingly a way for creators and influencers to make money (think: Patreon)… and for Twitter to be the marketplace that sits in the middle.
Could big brands and small merchants be attracted to such an offer? And could the new eCommerce card sweeten the deal? This is one possible direction. The new format could likewise go the other direction noted above: advertising. A Twitter card that’s optimized for transactions would certainly make sense as an ad unit.
Panning back, the macro-segment we call eCommerce is obviously having a moment given Covid-era retail constraints. The big question is if 2020 inflections will sustain in the Post-Covid world. Have consumers’ eCommerce appetites been conditioned to a degree that there’s no going back to pre-Covid levels?
That’s the bet being made now by several media investors and startups. It’s also the driving force in product road maps among consumer-facing tech giants. We’ve seen this from Google, Instagram and of course Amazon. Brick & mortar giants like Walmart, Target and Starbucks are also leaning into locally-fulfilled eCommerce.
Twitter is a logical addition to this list as it captures a large share of consumer engagement. It’s an opportune vessel for content marketing and sponsorship (upper-funnel)… so more transactional functionality to capture high intent (lower-funnel) makes sense. It also feeds into Twitter’s new growth mandate.
We’ll watch closely to see where this goes next, and will report back.