Twitter has rolled out a new ad format called Instant Unlock Cards to help increase conversations on the platform between brands and users.
These conversational ads include exclusive content like videos or Q&A sessions that can be accessed with a customized hashtag. For example, Target could use this ad format to promote a video interview with the designer of its new clothing line. Users would then be prompted to send out a tweet with the associated hashtag in order to view the video from Target. This not only raises visibility, but has the potential to drive sales for products upon launch.
Instant Unlock Cards open up a big opportunity for retailers to drive brand loyalty through increased communication and special content available only to Twitter users. Utilizing exclusive content on Twitter encourages users to keep returning to a retailer's profile to check for updates.
And while the ad formats are promoting video content at the moment, we expect that in the future this offering will be used to promote sales and promotions from retailers. Target, for example, could also use the ad format to provide Twitter users with a secret code that gives them early access to an online sale of their latest clothing line.
The Instant Unlock Cards will also likely increase positive perceptions of retail brands on social media. As a whole, social media tends to earn low marks all around for customer interactions, specifically for customer service inquiries. Customers are either ignored altogether or told to reach out through another channel, and it's discouraging users from interacting with them at all on social media. Instant Unlock Cards can change that by requiring retail brands to be more interactive on Twitter and respond to users' replies.
Twitter's new ad format is part of a larger strategy, as the company refocuses its tools for brands and retailers. In May, Twitter announced that it was officially halting the development of its buy buttons, which allowed users to purchase items without leaving Twitter. This was due to low user interest in making purchases on social media platforms, according to a survey from GlobalWebIndex cited by eMarketer. Just 9% of respondents showed interest in using Facebook's buy buttons.
Meanwhile, between 12% and 14% of social media users showed interest in Twitter's, Pinterest's, and Instagram's buy buttons. Twitter's choice to devote resources elsewhere shows that it is aware of consumers' behavior and is adapting to fit their needs, rather than pushing offerings that consumers are resistant to. We expect to see brands adopt Instant Unlock Cards quickly as a way to drive up engagement and encourage purchases, even if actual sales take place outside of the Twitter platform.
BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on social media's role in online retail that analyzes whether social media is driving direct sales with the use of embedded "Buy" buttons on social media posts, or referring traffic to retailers' websites and apps. It measures the impact social media has on e-commerce by looking at metrics such as conversion rates, average order value, and revenue generated by shares, likes, and tweets. It also outlines the latest commerce efforts by leading social networks.
Here are some of the key points from the report:
Social is driving much bigger increases in retail traffic than any other online channel. Social media increased its share of e-commerce referrals nearly 200% between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015.
For retailers to maintain these social gains, they will need to pay special attention to mobile, where social engagement with retail content is still limited. Social media users are 35% less likely to share a brand's or retailer's social post on mobile than they are on desktop computers.
Facebook continues to grow its lead as the dominant social commerce platform. Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue. The site's changing demographics could make older consumers a strong target for retailers leveraging the platform.
Pinterest is a major social commerce player despite a relatively small user base. The pinning platform drives 16% of social revenue despite an audience 6.5 times smaller than Twitter. New buy and action buttons on retailer posts should make Pinterest an even stronger referral and revenue engine for brands.
Twitter is losing its influence for mass-market merchants, but it could still have a role to play among sporting and events marketers, especially for location-based promotions. Recently, NFL and NBA teams have used Twitter to sell game tickets and merchandise.
Instagram doesn't drive significant sales activity for retailers but high-end companies have been leveraging the platform for branding purposes. New Buy buttons on paid posts, as well as increased targeting capabilities, could make the app a more important direct-response driver.
In full, the report:
Sizes social media's role for retailers compared to other referral sources such as search and email.
Examines how social media's transition to mobile is impacting the role of different social platforms.
Looks at how the different social networks stack up in terms of conversion rates, share of social-generated retail sales, and average order value.
Highlights up-and-coming social commerce players such as Snapchat and Instagram, and how brands are using them for influencer marketing.
Outlines the latest major commerce moves by Facebook and Twitter, which could help drive up conversion rates from social.
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