Twitter is doubling down on its dive into e-commerce with the launch on Wednesday of its Shop Module, which allows users to purchase items directly from a user’s profile.
The new feature allows brands to add a shopping carousel at the top of their profile, and is currently available only for users with iOS devices, Twitter said.
“We’ve come to appreciate that people do a lot of research on Twitter before they buy something,” Twitter CFO Ned Segal said at an investor presentation in May. “They want to hear what experts say about a phone, about a pair of shoes, about a coffee mug.”
The new feature is the social platform’s latest experiment in leveraging its vast U.S. user base to churn retail sales. In the last three months of December, the company had 37 million active daily users, according to its annual report.
“We’re still in the learning phases,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told investors in an earnings call last week. “We’re moving as fast as we can, but we want to make sure that before we roll it out everywhere that we have something compelling that people actually want to exchange their hard-earned dollars for.”
While Twitter has previously launched shopping pilots, its latest foray comes on the heels of a massive boom in online shopping. Social media shopping sales are expected to rise by about 36 percent to $36.62 billion this year, according to eMarketer, after an explosive year in 2020 when sales surged by about 39 percent as lockdowns boosted online shopping and social media browsing.
Social media shopping is largely dominated by Facebook, according to eMarketer, with about 22 percent of internet users, or 56 million people over the age of 14, expected to make at least one purchase on Facebook this year, the research company said.
YouTube has also experimented with how to turn its culture of unboxing videos, product reviews and make-up tutorials into sales. Parent company Google added a new feature that allows YouTube shoppers to make purchases directly from creators’ videos by clicking a shopping bag icon. It has also partnered with Shopify to give the option for its businesses to advertise on Google for free.
Unlike its social media competitors, Twitter has not had a program where it pays creators for content until recently. This year it launched three new projects aimed at monetizing content, including a “tip jar” and paid subscription programs for popular users that charge followers for exclusive content.
“Twitter is already a place where people come to discuss products and services, and Twitter clearly believes there’s opportunity to get users to buy within the app too,” Jasmine Enberg, a senior analyst with eMarketer Insider Intelligence, told NBC News in an emailed statement. “E-commerce could become another revenue stream for the company, though it remains to be seen whether people will use the feature.”
The new shopping tool builds on the company’s new “professional profiles,” similar to Facebook business pages, which launched earlier this year. The profile option gives businesses the ability to customize their pages to help drive engagement and sales.
In 2017, Twitter previously scrapped a “buy button” feature which allowed users to make a purchase from certain tweets.