The Buy Button Dichotomy

Recode’s Jason Del Rey picks up on the trend of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest adding so called ‘Buy Buttons’ to their properties. As he points out, this creates both massive potential for retailers but simultaneously could also be a threat:

Among the challenges these Goliaths face is integrating inventory and payments systems from retailers big and small that have little experience selling stuff outside of their own storefronts. They also face the challenge of convincing the people who use their service to get used to, and trust, buying stuff from their site for the first time. What’s more, they have to allay fears of retailers that they will steal the customer relationship, banishing them to glorified warehousing and shipping partners.

The key to the success of the ‘buy button’ for both consumers and retailers is thus; will people buy on social networks? and from the retailers perspective, should we allow this?

First up, social networks have traditionally been very poor at converting users into shoppers. There’s a reason why ad dollars are still spent on search engines like Google. This is simply due to intent – people purposely search for products to buy and more often than not, they buy them after searching. Social networks as the name suggests have different intent and it’s not nearly as powerful as direct search. People are unlikely to buy from their social networks either directly or via friends recommendations (remember Facebook’s beacon disaster?)

For retailers, all customer information is captured online via their ecommerce platform and stored there or in other CRM applications. Would they really want to hand this crucial data over to third parties? That’s the likely outcome of relying on the buy button. It’s a clear outcome unless social sites were to allow retailers to tap into this data but then again, who wants to rely on third parties for traffic? Remember Panda, Google’s core search update that left a-gasp – including the biggest sites like eBay.

So while Pinterest is rolling out the buy button to great acclaim, its far from certain that this is really going to change ecommerce. Then again, ecommerce is about experimentation so I guess we all should try.

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