When you think Twitter, you may think realtime news, or CRM, or brand marketing, or maybe even Justin Bieber, but “eCommerce”? Probably not. In the social network landscape, Facebook is generally seen as the most eCommerce-inclined, what with its “F-Commerce,” but up to this point, consumers really haven’t fallen in love with the idea of brands replicating their storefronts on Facebook. Meanwhile, Twitter’s priorities lie elsewhere, so, in spite of its growth, the social network has yet to leverage its own eCommerce potential. That’s why Portland-based Chirpify has developed a platform that transforms Twitter from a broadcast platform into a transactional one.
In February, Chirpify rebranded from SellSimp.ly and launched a Twitter commerce platform that allowed brands and consumers to buy, sell, donate and transact through tweets without leaving the comfort of Twitter. Since launch, Chirpify has seen growing traction, thanks in part to a promotional campaign launched at SXSW, called “Tweet-a-Beer,” which used the startup’s API to allow people to buy each other a pint over Twitter. The campaign resulted in a huge boost of traffic for Chirpify, with two new users signing up every second — activity that Chirpify Founder Chris Teso tells us continued for several weeks after SXSW. Although it’s slowed down a bit since, the campaign proved that direct commerce over Twitter was not only possible, it was so easy a tweet could do it.
Today, the startup’s direct sales model for Twitter is officially getting further validation — this time in the form of capital — as the startup announced that it has secured $1.3 million in series A financing. The new round of investment, which adds to the $50K in seed it raised from its incubator Upstart Labs, was led by Voyager Capital, with participation from Geoff Entress, BuddyTV CEO Andy Liu, former Facebook exec Rudy Gadre, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, and TiE Oregon Angels.
Just in case there’s any confusion in terms of how Chirpify works, put simply, when users sign up for Chirpify, they connect their Twitter and PayPal accounts to the platform. Merchants upload whatever they want to sell to their dashboard, and tweet the link. Consumers simply reply to the tweet and include “buy.” Boom, Chirpify sends you a secure download over DM, the cost is deducted from your PayPal account, the funds instantly transferred to the merchant’s account, at which point they get a receipt.
Anyone can sell, buy, or donate on Chirpify. Even if the process sounds complicated, it’s not. So, the more one considers the fact that the platform offers a simple way to turn tweets into transactions, and seeing as people already use Twitter to follow their favorite brands, musicians, and other people they care about, why not let users buy the latest product or download the latest song by tweet? Well, in addition to its funding announcement, Chirpify is today launching Twitter Commerce for Digital Content, which enables musicians to sell songs and concert tickets directly to fans on Twitter (with the by-product being increased control of their own distribution).
While Chirpify is working with musicians and music labels, at first, the goal Teso says is for this to work for any brand, event, product, or service. (Next, Chirpify plans to work with eBooks vendors, for example.) That’s because the cool thing about Chirpify is it that it works wherever Twitter is, on mobile, desktop, or tablets, and this direct commerce even applies to re-tweets — which has the potential for some serious amplification by allowing for-sale items to reach more streams and thus more eyeballs.
But what if your brand or band is already using a storefront to manage transactions? Chirpify also offers integration with existing eCommerce storefronts (like Magento, for example) so that brands can leverage back-end fulfillment, listing, and transaction management. Merchants just click the “list on Twitter” button when creating a listing for sale, either in their eCommerce or Chirpify dashboard, and can then set the price, quantity, shipping price, and shipping timing.
Chirpify’s solution starts off free, with the startup taking a 4 percent commission on each transaction, but for those merchants looking to conduct more frequent business using Chirpify, the platform offers an enterprise plan, which is priced on a case-by-case basis. The pricing generally starts at around $500 a month, but removes 4 percent Chirpify commission and adds eCommerce platform integration, priority support, co-branding, etc.
For now, Chirpify’s sole payment system is PayPal, but Teso says that they’ve had interest from just about every payment solution out there, and the team plans to add additional payment options in the near future.
But for now, Teso says that the company is focused on scaling and will be using its new capital to ramp up hiring, with additional specific forms of digital content (like eBooks) to come later. The solo founder has already had conversations with reps from Twitter, who are following the startup’s progress with interest. Although he wouldn’t comment on any specifics, if Chirpify can sign continue to sign on big brands (HP and Nestle are already using the platform) and get back to that two-new-users-a-second kind of traction, my guess is that those conversations with Twitter would change in tone. Hard not to see Chirpify as being serious acquisition bait down the line.
For more on Chirpify, check ’em out at home here.