Payment Firm Stripe Launches Product to Help Retailers Sell Better on Mobile

Until Now, Mobile Shopping Experience Has Largely Been Terrible, Said Twitter Commerce Exec

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Payment company Stripe is hoping to take mobile and social commerce to the next level -- and make it a little bit easier.

At an event Monday in San Francisco, the company announced Relay, a product that lets retailers easily integrate their products and sell them across social platforms and other apps.

As part of the announcement, the company is positioning itself as a middleman that both platforms and retailers can turn to, rather than having to manage those individual relationships on their own. "For retailers, there are too many channels to integrate with directly," said Stripe CEO Patrick Collison. Now merchants can upload their inventory and sell it across multiple channels almost instantly, he added. Prior to this, Stripe had primarily been known as a software entity that helps companies accept various forms of payment online and through apps.

Twitter is among the launch partners, and the move will allow users to buy items directly off Twitter without having to be redirected to another app or website. Relay will allow merchants, big or small, to sell their products through Twitter starting today.

The move comes as multiple apps and retailers are all scrambling to improve online buying experiences, particularly in mobile. Executives introducing Relay on stage repeatedly talked about how purchasing products on mobile is so onerous that often consumers will just give up and not buy what they were intending to purchase.

Nathan Hubbard, head of commerce at Twitter, said Twitter users are often shopping-oriented when they use the service, but up until now, the mobile-buying experience everywhere has been terrible. Mr. Hubbard added that 54% of Twitter users use Twitter as part of their retail experience and two-thirds of users buy something because they saw it on Twitter.

The problem, however, is that it hasn't been that simple for most merchants to convert that interest into revenue directly on Twitter. The social platform, along with Facebook, Google and Pinterest, all within the last year or so have made announcements about integrating buy buttons, but it remains to be seen how widely the buy buttons all roll out.

How successful Stripe's move will be ultimately will depend on whether it can get other social networks and retailers on board. Retailers at launch include Saks Fifth Avenue and Warby Parker, and Twitter and browsing app ShopStyle are among the early platforms on which retailers can sell their inventory.

Stripe also announced that Relay will be working with mobile ad network InMobi to exend buy buttons across its network of 30,000 apps.

Stripe has been involved with other recent commerce announcements. When Pinterest's Buyable Pins launched in June, the company worked with Stripe to help facilitate the online payments, and when American Express launched its digital payment service Checkout in July, the company enlisted Stripe to help power it. Pinterest, though, does not appear to be a partner for Stripe's new Relay product.

Selling inventory across social channels can have a number of hurdles. Retailers and platforms, for instance, will have to ensure that anything that's being offered alongside a buy button is actually available for purchase.

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