Twitter tests new e-commerce features for tweets

Sarah Perez
·5 min read

Twitter confirmed it's testing a new way to display tweets that link out to e-commerce product pages -- like products on a Shopify store, for example. With a new Twitter card format, the company is experimenting with tweets that include a big "Shop" button and integrate product details directly into the tweet itself, including the product name, shop name and product pricing.

The experiment was spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra who tweeted out screenshots of the new experience. The original poster, based in Qatar, had seen the experiment on an Android device, he tells TechCrunch.

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While these tweets would work well as ads, Twitter confirmed to us the tweet is an example of a new treatment for "organic" tweets focused on e-commerce.

This format could potentially come into play as part of Twitter's larger push to become a creator platform, with its recently announced plans for a "Super Follow" subscription. The new product will allow Twitter users to follow a particular account for subscriber-only perks like newsletters, exclusive content, a supporter badge and other deals and discounts. A more "shoppable" tweet format could allow these creators to direct their fans to products and merchandise, perhaps.

Twitter also briefly touched on its plans for future investments in e-commerce during its Investor Day last week, but not in great detail.

"We’re...starting to explore ways to better support commerce on Twitter," said Twitter Revenue Lead, Bruce Falck, during the event.

"We know people come to Twitter to interact with brands and discuss their favorite products. In fact, you may have even noticed some businesses already developing creative ways to enable sales on our platform," he explained.

"This demand gives us confidence in the power of combining real-time conversation with an engaged and intentional audience. Imagine easily discovering, and quickly purchasing, a new skincare product or trendy sneaker from a brand you follow with only a few clicks," Falck added.

But he cautioned investors that while Twitter was "excited about the potential of commerce," it was still something that's in "very early exploration."

The idea that Twitter could become more of a discovery network for e-commerce products is an interesting one -- especially given the growth in the social commerce sector in recent months. This includes increased investment from Facebook into shopping features across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as the growing attention being paid to video-based shopping.

The latter has been particularly popular, in terms of both livestreamed product demos and pre-recorded short-form videos, like those on TikTok.

Shopify, for instance, partnered with TikTok on social commerce last fall. And Walmart -- a suitor for TikTok's potential U.S. spin-out (which is now on hold) -- ran its own livestreamed shopping event on the video app over the holidays. A number of video shopping startups have been taking on funding in recent months, too.

Twitter, meanwhile, may have dialed down its video ambitions over the years with the closure of Vine and now, Periscope, but it's not without tools to make shopping more interesting on its platform, if it chose to do so. It still has integrated tools for posting photos, videos and even live video content. Combined with a Twitter Card that includes pricing and a big "Shop" button, people's tweets could drive sales.

Or, in other words, a Twitter Card that points you directly to a product page could be just the start of what's to come.

In fact, Twitter itself says it has a number of plans for social commerce.

"This is the first of many experiments in the commerce space and we will enrich the experience as we learn more," a spokesperson said.

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