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Twitter Launches Pilot Test for Shopping

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The social commerce boom now has Twitter testing shopping features.

On Wednesday, the messaging platform launched a pilot program for a new “Shop Module.” The dedicated space features a carousel of products at the top of professional pages, a new type of Twitter profile introduced in April for businesses, nonprofits, publishers and creators.

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Visitors can scroll through the items, tap to learn more about a product and then purchase it, thanks to an in-app browser. In other words, people can shop and buy, then resume tweeting without ever leaving Twitter.

The company’s own @Twitter page features the module, with merchandise stemming from a recent viral tweet. It’s also available through a handful of test partners — including Walmart, Nike, Disney, Patagonia, Arden Cove, Google, GameStop, LatinX in Power podcast and others — for English-speaking iPhone users in the U.S.

The announcement isn’t entirely a surprise. Company executives tipped their hand at Twitter’s Analyst Day event earlier this year, mentioning future exploration of commerce features. Revenue product lead Bruce Falck also reminded the public that it isn’t the platform’s first foray into shopping either. It dipped a toe into Twitter shopping in 2015 with “Buy Now” buttons, product pages and collections, he wrote in the company blog on Wednesday.

But that was all prelude to the Shop Module, which now “allows us to explore how shoppable profiles can create a pathway from talking about and discovering products on Twitter to actually purchasing them,” Falck explained.

The move picks the thread back up during a heightened time for social commerce. Established peers and emerging rivals throughout the tech sector are racing to capture the momentum, which has been rocketing skyward of late, thanks in part to a captive pandemic audience now accustomed to shopping online.

Social commerce in the U.S. is expected to land $36.62 billion in sales this year, a spike of 35.8 percent above 2020 levels, according to e-Marketer. While that still can’t touch the gargantuan proportions in China — the world’s largest social commerce market with $351.65 billion in 2021 sales — it’s plenty to set off social’s retail race.

For Twitter, it means the time is now to get its commerce features off the ground. The Shop Module is the first of its small-scale tests, and it hopes it will better inform them about the shopping potential on the platform.

The company seems optimistic about it, due to reasons intrinsic to its fundamental model: “We believe in the power of the conversations that Twitter facilitates around products. With this pilot, we’ll get to explore how our engaged, responsive and chatty audience reacts to products that are emotionally charged — like a new jersey from your favorite sports team — or that provide lasting impact — like a new skincare regimen,” Falck said. “And, fundamentally, it’ll give us the chance to keep learning about which shopping experiences people prefer on Twitter.”

Part of that desire to learn has inspired the company to form a merchant advisory board as well. The board will comprise “brands that have established themselves as best-in-class examples of merchants on Twitter,” he added, and will evolve over time. “With their partnership, we hope to more easily address the needs of businesses of any size or vertical in our product innovation.”