The company announced on Monday that it would begin publicly testing a “buy” button that can be embedded in posts to allow users to buy a product with a couple of clicks.
The feature — initially limited to mobile versions of Twitter and aimed at selling limited-edition or time-sensitive items like T-shirts and event tickets — could eventually create a new revenue stream for the social network, which currently relies on advertising for virtually all of its income.
The test comes as competition in the world of mobile e-commerce intensifies. Apple is expected to unveil a new phone-based payment system on Tuesday as part of its latest update to the iPhone. And Facebook, Twitter’s biggest rival, began testing a “buy” button on its service in July.
Social networks, including Pinterest, a sort of visual wish book, see e-commerce as a potentially huge moneymaker. All of them are experimenting with ways to make it easier to buy directly from their sites, but so far none have introduced purchase technology on a wide scale.
Still, billions of dollars of online sales are already associated with social networks. Many marketers post messages on services like Twitter and Facebook promoting their products and offering links to external sites where they can be bought.
Now Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are trying to take a step out of that process by offering customers the ability to buy advertised products instantly. That would allow them to charge a fee for facilitating the transaction and also keep people from leaving their site or app.
“This is a smart move on Twitter and Facebook’s part on closing the loop,” said Dayna Moon, a senior director at 3Q Digital, an advertising agency in Silicon Valley whose clients include GoPro, Warby Parker and Fitbit.
Unlike Twitter’s previous e-commerce efforts with companies like Amazon and American Express, the latest effort will not require buyers to send a public message with a special hashtag to buy a product. Instead, they will click on a “buy” button inside the Twitter message.
The service will then prompt them to enter credit card and shipping information or, if it is already on file, ask them to click again to confirm the purchase.
“I think of Twitter as the place to connect with the things that you love,” said Nathan Hubbard, a former chief executive of Ticketmaster, who joined Twitter a year ago to lead its commerce efforts. “How can you bring a transaction into the experience to make it additive?”
Mr. Hubbard said the test would initially be limited to a small number of Twitter users in the United States and would include items for sale from 19 entities, including popular musicians like Rihanna and Eminem, nonprofit groups like the Nature Conservancy and DonorsChoose, and the retailers Home Depot and Burberry.
He said that it was unclear what types of products customers might want to buy on Twitter, although he suspected that what would do best was “anything that is perishable, that has a temporal component to it, or a sense of urgency.”
The nonprofit organization (Red), which teamed up with various brands to create and sell products with a portion of profits dedicated to fighting AIDS, is part of Twitter’s test group and was quickly on the service Monday selling a $75 limited-edition T-shirt signed by the music producer David Guetta.
Colleen Donnelly, social media and content manager for (Red), said the group had always used social media to get the word out about its work, so it made sense to experiment with Twitter’s new commerce venture. “We’d like to offer our audience some unique products,” she said.
Ms. Donnelly said (Red) also planned to work with Facebook on buy and donate buttons on videos that the company is testing as part of its intensified focus on video content. Stripe, a payment processor that is used by many e-commerce companies, will handle the financial side of the transactions. And three marketing platforms — Fancy, Musictoday and Gumroad — will work with the sellers to handle product presentation and order fulfillment.
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