Chen Zhang Design Portfolio

Twitter E-commerce

Redesign an optimized e-commerce feature and workflow for Twitter

Problem Definition & Assumptions 

In 2014, Twitter introduced a "Buy" button to allow users directly buy a product from the Twitter platform. However, in 2017 Twitter decided to retire this commerce initiative. 

I assumed the business strategies behind this new "Buy" button at that time were as the following: 

  • Make ads in the Twitter platform more effective (ads conversation rates and merchant's online sales) by allowing users directly buy a product by clicking an ad, especially on mobile devices because more than 80% of Twitter users are on mobile devices based on data in 2014. (link)
New research from ComScore shows that while nearly 60 percent of all online retail browsing happens on tablets and phones, only 15 percent of e-commerce sales actually happen on these devices. 
  • Allow Twitter to ally and partner with retailers to compete with Amazon and other e-commerce website in mobile shopping use case;
  • Buy button is one of the trends from the Internet Trends Report in 2015, because analysts assumed that it was natural for users to do shopping in the social media platform seamlessly. Facebook and Pinterest also introduced similar features in 2014, and this "Buy" button was supposed to improve their core business model – ads.  

The business strategies behind the "Buy" button 

Problems with the "Buy" button 

Now we all know this feature is not a success for Twitter. I think there're two sides of the hurdles existing for the "Buy" button feature. 

For retailers

  • Inventory system: Big cost and efforts for integration between Twitter and the inventory systems to make sure the product in the Tweet image is always in stock. 
  • Fulfillment: High cost for fulfillment and shipping for only 1 item in one order.  Retailers get more profit margins with multi-item orders. 

For consumers 

  • Distractions to the core use needs:  I think the primary use cases for Twitter users is to browse political & society hot topics, live sport game updates, entertainment news and expert's opinion in a domain. It maybe an odd experience for a user to see a shoe ad or clothes ad in the context of browsing the social news in Twitter.  However, it makes sense for Pinterest because the main use case for Pinterest, which is image-based discovery and inspiration, matches with this E-commerce workflow. 
  • Authenticity, Trust and Safety: Is this safe to buy directly from Twitter? Is my credit card information, shipping address and other personal information stored in Twitter? What if I want to refund and change my item and who should I contact, Twitter or retailer? 

After I asked my friends about their reasons to use Twitter, I assumed primary value props of Twitter for users are as the following:

  • Social & political news
  • Live sport games updates
  • Entertainment pop-star updates
  • Expert opinion's in a specific domain, such as user experience design 

Based on the previous analysis about why the "Buy" button didn't work out, I think we should consider product opportunities that are related to the core use cases of Twitter, and not dependent on complex inventory or shipping systems. I have two ideas to combine the Twitter core value props with E-commerce use case: 

  • Brand live show@Twitter < –– > Subscriptions to a brand's live channel
  • Movie premiere updates and news < –– > Book movie tickets 

Twitter Value Props & E-commerce Ideas 

Ideate Workflows & Sketch Wireframes


use case 1: Brand Live Show @Twitter

One of the Twitter main use cases is its live updates and live broadcasting sport events and entertainment shows. Recently, Twitter announced multiple new live streaming programs available to make Twitter air live video 24 hours and 7 days. (link)

I believe that merchants can also use live show on Twitter platform to engage its target user groups and acquire new online followers. Besides that, merchant can also make revenues by users' subscriptions to their live show channel. 

As for Twitter, it's a great way to promote their Live Show feature to acquire new users and retain existing users. We can consider introducing this brand live event feature to both Twitter and Periscope, which is its dedicated live video broadcasting product. 

PayPal will play a critical part in partnering with Twitter to build the smooth and safe subscription payment workflow. 


Use Case 2: Book Movie Tickets

Users use Twitter to follow movie stars and movie premiere news, and users have a need to buy tickets to watch their favorite movies after they see a related tweet. Based on the user device location tracking, nearby theatre merchants can have a new business opportunity to sell tickets on Twitter platform. 

Note that Twitter still needs to integrate with their existing ticketing system to check ticket availabilities for a movie, but I assume the integration cost is smaller than integrating with the clothing inventory system. 

Considering Fandango is a dominating player in this vertical space, Twitter may possibly partner directly with Fandango app on the movie ticketing system. 

PayPal will partner with Twitter to work on the checkout workflow.