Commerce at Twitter is not dead

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The reports of commerce’s death at Twitter have been greatly exaggerated, according to a tweetstorm by Nathan Hubbard, Twitter’s head of commerce. Last month BuzzFeed reported that Jack Dorsey had put Buy Buttons, product pages and other commerce efforts on the “back-burner,” and the commerce team was shifted into other divisions.

But now Hubbard writes: “commerce is alive and well at Twitter 🙂 Our commerce work has always been much broader than just buy buttons,” “Industry is just in the first phases of parsing product/market fit for the Buy Button concept across products, services and platforms,” and “As such, rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated :).”

Hubbard explains that Twitter learned a lot from Buy buttons and he expects they’ll come back, but, in the meantime, it’s concentrating on the success of dynamically personalized product ads and using customer service conversations as jumping off points for commerce.

Facebook came to a similar conclusion, finding dynamic product ads to be a hit. These ads use retargeting and other info about a user to select which of an advertiser’s products they’re most likely to buy and show those front and center in the ad. Facebook recently expanded these ads to Instagram.

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How dynamic product ads work, via Smartly

It’s important to note that Recode reported last month that Hubbard is set to leave the company, so his statements should be taken with a grain of salt. But Hubbard’s tweets do mesh with Twitter’s official statement to BuzzFeed that contradicted its report:

“We made a change 3 months ago to INCREASE our investment in commerce by moving fully into Dynamic Product Ads after seeing the great early results (2x the CTR, 2x the conversion rates) we talked about in our Q1 earnings call. We have more product, engineering and business focus on commerce as a result of focusing on DPAs. The bottom line is DPAs work for advertisers and we will continue to invest in that product.”

You can see Hubbard’s full tweetstorm below:

1) Mary Meeker’s awesome slides yesterday reminded me that our work on Buy Buttons at Twitter was featured in her presentation last year.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

2) Recent reports about decisions made last year @Twitter to pivot our focus have hastened a narrative about the future of social commerce.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

3) Btw, commerce is alive and well at Twitter 🙂 Our commerce work has always been much broader than just buy buttons.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

4) We learned a ton from our experiment that we will use in

all kinds of ways, and I bet Twitter comes back to buy buttons down the road.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

5) Our partners like @stripe and @shopify are also still believers in where this is all going.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

6) But one thing we learned is that behavior inherent to the platform is a

great starting point for commerce.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

7) And customer service is a major current use case for Twitter. Those

conversations are starting points for commerce! It’s our advantage.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

8) We also learned that Dynamic Product Ads are *really* working for Twitter, which has been talked about publicly. This is a big focus.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

9) So naturally last fall we put the bulk of our commerce resources against these commerce initiatives that were near term opportunities.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

10) I’d be careful not to judge this as an indication of the future potential of transactions within social messaging (and other) platforms.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

11) The idea behind Buy Buttons is to meet consumers in places where they spend time, on canvases that are the home screens for their lives.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

12) This could be any number of platforms we are seeing emerge today – bots, messaging, other AI interfaces, voice/speech like Alexa.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

13) The point in all cases is to be there in a moment of need or discovery, and collapse the funnel from discovery to transaction.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

14) This is part of the ongoing quest in digital commerce and advertising to eliminate friction and compel purchase decision.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

15) As Mary showed us yesterday, we’re still at the beginning of mobile commerce. Internet only ~10% of retail, mobile only ~20% of that.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

16) So with all these platforms being overwhelmingly mobile (or something else), *of course* transaction volumes are just getting going.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

17) The point is to build the infrastructure now to keep pace with rapidly shifting consumer behavior. To be where they are when they move.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

18) Companies will either build that infrastructure now, or play catch up. It’s not a debate whether consumer behavior will shift.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

19) What *is* a debate is what transactions can port well into other platforms and UIs, especially for everyday goods and services.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

20) e.g. What exactly is the benefit of getting an Uber from Facebook Messenger vs Uber app? Is the experience worse, comparable or better?

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

21) Because if the intent is new customer acquisition, then these kinds of integrations are really just app install ads. That’s cool. But…

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

22) Beyond meeting a consumer in the moment, what is it about these platforms that can *enhance* the purchase decision?

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

23) “Buy Buttons” for some products/services will be a natural evolution of direct response ads and will increase conversion and engagement.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

24) But most interesting is whether they can leverage the platforms they appear on to enhance the experience vs normal in-app transactions.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

25) Industry is just in the *first* phases of parsing product/market fit for the Buy Button concept across products, services and platforms.

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

26) As such, rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated 🙂

— Nathan Hubbard (@NathanCHubbard) June 2, 2016

Image credit: Yiying Lu

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