Are you dreaming of a Stripe Christmas, unlike one you've ever known? Where the commerce glistens and Twitterverse listens to hear cash register bells as it snows?
Wake up. If Twitter's reporter partnership with payments startup Stripe materializes in time for the peak holiday shopping stretch, it will be a boon for a handful of marketers and retailers. It will also bolster Twitter's advertising offerings. For most brands, however, this won't make a difference, and this should have little impact on their Twitter marketing strategies.
Re/code's Jason Del Rey wrote Friday that Twitter is expected to add buttons that say "Buy" or something similar later this year, buttons that will let Twitter users enter payment and perhaps other info without leaving Twitter.
I can picture so many marketers reading this and literally drooling at their desks, in a rather less adorable way than how my six-month-old daughter drools all over the board books I read her. While marketers may be nearly as helpless as my daughter in preventing themselves from drooling at such stimuli, it would behoove marketers to exercise a little more control.
One of the reasons marketers should show more caution in this realm is that the whole notion of social commerce is often misunderstood. The two aren't generally meant to be linked together in so seamless a fashion. Years ago, several brands tried promoting flash sales on Facebook where consumers could make a purchase directly within the post, but it wasn't sustainable. Nor were group commerce models, such as the original approach of Groupon. Pinterest functions differently, as it is in essence a product recommendation site, but usually people aren't spending time on social networks with the intent to make a purchase. That's why so many social commerce attempts have failed.
When social commerce tends to work on social networking sites, it's usually at opposite ends of the theoretical purchase funnel. On one end, there is the chance to make people aware of brands and products, often through content marketing. At the other end, by connecting with people who are already customers and fans, there are some opportunities to convert them into advocates. The toughest area to play is the middle -- taking someone who is aware of a product and interested, and having them make a purchase at that moment.
Even with those caveats, there are five kinds of use cases for Twitter-powered commerce that could make sense:
Sampling: It's not usually the hardest challenge to give away free products, but marketers can tap Twitter's interest graph to get goods in the hands in the right consumers.
Exclusive offers: Some of Twitter's earliest advertisers used ads for flash sales, and the Stripe connection will make this appealing to a broader range of brands. Exclusive goods can benefit from the word of mouth marketing on Twitter, and for such marketers, the real-time nature of Twitter makes it the perfect channel.
Digital media: Low-consideration items such as mobile apps could work well for impulse buys. So could music singles, given how much clout celebrities have on Twitter. Granted, publishers will have to be willing to integrate with Twitter and Stripe, and that will limit which ones participate.
Subscription services: When trying to convert non-paying followers to paying customers, popular services could float offers to their current fan base, and some of those fans may spread the word further with their retweets. Spotify, LinkedIn, The New York Times, Pocket, and TripIt are some that could assess whether Twitter followers become subscribers faster with Twitter enabling purchases.
Fundraising: This could be the social media equivalent of the pleas to text a quick message to donate $10 to some trendy cause. When it's so easy to donate a nominal amount with a tweet and a charity is connected to a cause people are buzzing about, that's precisely the kind of message that people will want to spread.
Even as these are some of the most likely candidates for finding success with Twitter-enabled payments, marketers hawking shampoo, smartphones, and perhaps even cars may give it a shot. If it is tempting to participate yourself, go into this thinking that this is an experiment that won't yet work. Instead, keep trying to figure out if Twitter matters for your brands on a more macro level, and determine how to best use it. If this year also winds up being a Stripe Christmas for you, then your holidays will be even merrier and brighter.