Brands are increasingly turning to Facebook both as a place to advertise and as a complementary platform by which to build their online presence — and begin conducting social commerce. There are a number of solutions, for example, that allow big and small operations alike to operate retail storefronts on Facebook, sell their wares, and, to a degree, manage their transactions.
But what about that other popular social network, Twitter? The “micro-blogging” platform has certainly become a vehicle for celebrities and brands looking to hawk their products, stir up brand awareness, and interact with their customers, so the question becomes: Why can’t Twitter, too, offer some of the same eCommerce functionality as Facebook?
There are a number of reasons for this, but for starters, Twitter has been largely focused on doing one thing well above all others: Building the best realtime communication platform the Internets has to offer. There’s also the fact that Twitter has privileged a “consistent user experience” and hasn’t always had the best relationship with third-party developers.
Thus, brands have typically used Twitter as a somewhat indirect broadcast platform, listing items for sale, but only doing so in a way that is intended to lure customers away from Twitter to their own eCommerce platforms. (Facebook has also struggled to keep commerce and transactions happening on its platform, rather than suffering from redirection to retailers’ homepages.)
But Chris Teso sees a big opportunity for direct eCommerce on Twitter, which is why, in July, he launched Sell Simply — a simple way to enable consumers and brands to buy, sell, and transact on Twitter. Essentially, Sell Simply turns Twitter into a eMarketplace, allowing users to buy and sell anything over Twitter by replying “buy” to any listing Tweet.
Users can list an item for sale on Sell Simply, or import their items from other commerce platforms, like Etsy, Ebay, Craigslist, ArtFire, or Bonanza, and automatically tweet those items out for sale. All users have to do is connect their Sell Simply accounts with Twitter and PayPal, so when someone responds to that tweet with “buy”, Sell Simply facilitates the transaction through PayPal, enabling users to buy and sell an item with one tweet. (Re-tweets, too, are transactionable.)
Beyond allowing consumers and brands to sell directly to their customers on Twitter, the startup also offers its users the opportunity to create their own storefront. Through Sell Simply’s “Simple Shop”, users can aggregate all the listings for items being sold on Twitter so that users can find them all in one place. They can also add descriptions, tags, photos, and edit a number of other fields for each listing. What’s more, the platform has a fully automated shipping calculator, which allows sellers, for example, to set their own shipping options in prices so that shopping costs can be included in the listing price, or can be set for “local pickup only”, etc.
And, as mentioned above, Sell Simply has a Chrome extension to make it easy for those already selling items on Etsy, Ebay and more to import their listings.
To make the process of buying and selling direct on Twitter device agnostic, Sell Simply has launched Chirp, which now allows users to pay anywhere with any device. To make a Chirp payment, all users have to do is send a tweet that says something like “@SellSimply #pay @ThePayee $200 for [said item]”. Users can make payments that are as little as $1 or as high as $2,000. (And this is how Sell Simply makes money: The startup charges a 2 percent transaction fee on every one of those purchases.)
This allows brands and sellers to collect money in under 1 minute, direct to their PayPal accounts. Detailed PayPal receipts are then automatically sent to the buyer via direct message so that they have an extra way of making sure that the transaction has been completed.
And, in terms of security, since all transactions take place through PayPal, customers have no liability for unauthorized purchases when they meet PayPal’s requirements, and, in turn, can take advantage of refunds for incorrect orders or items that never arrive.
Since launching in July, the platform has racked up over one thousand members listing over 10,000 items for sale on Twitter, and Teso says that 75 percent of Sell Simply’s members have connected their PayPal and Twitter accounts to the platform, which he sees as encouraging evidence that people are ready to take that leap of faith and begin using Twitter as a direct sales platform. So far, the average transaction price has been $35 and the most common items being sold are vintage clothing and photography, (as many users are coming from Etsy), but he expects the merchandise to diversify as more people begin connecting to the platform.
As for the road ahead, Teso plans to launch a “T-commerce” platform designed to expand Sell Simply’s possible uses for brands, with features that will include integration with back office e-commerce workflow, analytics, and a recommendation engine that will suggest items based on what a user Tweets about, for example. For brands interested in this kind of functionality, Teso said, there will be a licensing fee.
Obviously, for brands, the value proposition both for Sell Simply’s current offerings and the marketplace features that will be launching by the end of the year could be huge. If you’re a brand, Twitter is the perfect platform on which to broadcast flash sales and time-sensitive deals, and Sell Simply’s buy-with-one-tweet service will make that even easier.
And for non-profits, Sell Simply uses the same formula for transactions to turn Twitter into a donations platform as well, allowing people to donate their charities of choice with one tweet.
Just as brands hope that using Facebook as a social commerce platform can help create scale so that a larger audience will see cool products or sales because users post those items on their wall or share them with friends, Teso said that he sees a similar opportunity for eCommerce on Twitter.
If one happens to be selling their bike on Twitter through Sell Simply, there’s a good chance that a user’s friends will re-tweet the listing, and their followers may follow suit. If those people then, in turn, re-tweet to their followers, well, you get the point. Suddenly your listing might be reaching the eyeballs of someone in a fifth degree of separation, to which they can reply and instantaneously purchase the item. And with Chirp, that can all happen while you’re on the go.
It’s like Square, but you don’t need an extra device (a Square) — or a credit card. Pretty cool.