Social buy buttonsBuy buttons are going to be everywhere come the end of the year, it seems. Twitter introduced the feature in the US last September, with it expected to be made available to UK retailers if it proves to be a success.

Pinterest is also letting US users purchase appealing products on the spot with Buyable Pins, while Facebook continues to test ways of making it easier for users to shop on the social network’s app. Instagram, however, is taking a little longer than others to come round to the idea. Pretty surprising considering that nearly half of its active users said that they use the social network to research brands.

However, maybe Instagram is yet to be convinced that buy buttons are what social users crave? According to research from GlobalWebIndex, just 14% of Instagram users are interested in using a buy button on the platform.

That’s not a great figure for a feature that most social networks look intent on integrating, which appears even worse when you consider Instagram users were found to be some of the most receptive of a buy button. Just 9% of the Facebook users questioned stated buy buttons when presented with some options on things most likely to increase the likelihood of buying a product.

In an email to SocialTimes, GWI said the results shows it’s clear “there’s still some distance to cover before users of these networks are sold on the idea of ‘social commerce'”.

“In all cases, active users are much more likely to undertake product research on these networks than they are to see appeal in using a ‘buy’ button to complete a purchase,” it added.

That brings us nicely on to those who are currently against social buy buttons:

One sceptic is social media strategist Lisa Braziel. She writes on SmartBlogs that integrating buy buttons might tempt marketers to “throw their social media best practices out the window and begin selling instead of connecting with consumers”.

Consumers don’t respond well to the hard sell anymore – that much is obvious – but will marketers be left with much choice but to revert to type as they attempt to make the buy button work?

Braziel says marketers do have a choice, and they need to remember that not all buyers are in the mindset to buy. That means that marketers have to analyse their audience to see when they’re more willing to make a purchase from the post in the newsfeed and pick those moments to incorporate the buy button.

Marketers would also do well to remember that not all purchases are made on impulse, she stressed. Therefore, it might not be the best idea to incorporate the buy button next to a £200 item, which could incite the wrong sort of comments.

Meanwhile, Peter Cunningham at buyapowa can’t see what buy buttons will contribute to users’ online experience. “Other than reducing a couple of clicks in the checkout process and having a prominent call to action, it doesn’t add much compared to clicking through to the brand or retailer’s site and buying there, which is what you can do today,” he commented to Econsultancy.

Cunningham also argues that the buy button will not incite shares or engagement like other social media tactics. “It is just share, click and buy. Whereas if you combine concepts like smart rewards, gamification and communal milestones then you are really incentivising sharing and buying,” he added.

From where we’re standing, they sound like pretty damning points. But let’s take a look the argument for social buy buttons before we make our minds up:

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google can’t all be wrong about social buy buttons, can they?

Thomas Stelter, VP of emerging solutions at Possible, says that while people might not have recognised it yet, buy buttons present marketers with a huge new opportunity.

“Social already plays such an influential role in the purchasing process, with around 50% of online purchases involving some social consideration. And when it comes to mobile buying, it’s even more compelling,” he wrote for Marketing Magazine.

In 2015, 30% of all ecommerce took place on mobile devices – according to data quoted by Stelter – while consumers are spending more and more time on social media. Combining the two makes complete sense, he argues.

There is a feeling that the reason the figure for ecommerce on mobile is not higher is because consumers currently experience friction when they shop and purchase on their portable device.

However, buy buttons should eliminate any difficulties for the consumer, “while at the time make it as easy as possible for businesses to connect directly with, and sell to, customers,” says Twitter.

US retailer PacSun was one of the first to get on board with Twitter’s ‘Buy Now’ button. It’s CEO, Gary Schoenfeld, called the feature a “no-brainer” and argued: “Because social media is our single most important marketing tool today, social commerce is obviously a key part of our overarching strategy. Anything we can do to shorten the gap between social engagement and shopping is a top priority.”

It is worth remembering Amazon’s attempts to “shorten the gap between social engagement and shopping”, however. It allowed users to add items to their shopping basket via Twitter by tweeting #AmazonCart in response to messages listing Amazon products – only to scrap the program less than 12 months later.

How much should emphasis should we place on Amazon’s experiment as a marker for social commerce? What camp are you in currently – for or against social buy buttons?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Ben Hollom

January 15, 2016