As web retailers gear up for what is predicted to be the highest grossing Christmas ever, sellers shouldn’t overlook the future impact of social media’s new “Buy It Now” buttons, a number of these of which are being trialled in time for Christmas.This Christmas, Deloitte is projecting as much as $965bn in sales, and in the UK it’s widely predicted that this year’s Black Friday will see the first £1bn online shopping day. But the biggest new opportunity for the coming year will come through social media instant sales. “Shop Now” type buttons have been launched or trialled in the US on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. This is going to have a profound impact on the ease of purchasing from mobile devices. We’ve all experienced the temptations of the “Buy it Now” button on eBay, bypassing that nerve-racking auction process. But the “Buy” and “Shop Now” buttons introduced on social media will take ease of purchase to new levels. This could be both a great opportunity and a curse for smaller retailers. Imagine watching a YouTube video about the particular laptop or jewellery item you are planning to buy your loved one for Christmas, and being able to purchase it directly by pressing “Click to Shop”. This is a feature that is already available and being trialled by retailers in the US. Pinterest has also introduced “buyable pins”. Users can see prices, select specific types of a product (like the colour), and then tap the button to buy the product. That item then arrives at the user’s door – it’s as simple as that. Consumers and retailers might be asking, what’s not to like? These “Buy Now” buttons could be a double-edged sword, getting in the way of the relationship between the retailer and the shopper. For example, Google, with its massive amounts of traffic, is ideally placed to capture impulse purchases. It is trialling its “buy it now” tool, appearing in the search results, and this will certainly eliminate an annoying sequence of clicks for consumers. But those retailers who do adopt the tool could run into trouble when Google’s platform is the one storing shopper’s credit card information, not their own. A regular visitor to Acme Jewellers might buy something from the store via the “Buy” button after seeing a promoted ad on Google, but then just as easily be sent to a competitor the next time. And all the invaluable information from cookies etc is also captured by Google, rather than the actual site. Social media is where the next battle for retail sales will be fought. Small and medium retailers can’t afford to be left behind, but they will need to be aware that the impulse to select the “buy it now” button can be just as injudicious for retailers as it can be for buyers! David Jinks is head of public relations at Fastlane International.
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