Amazon.com’s priority is to remove every barrier that might keep someone from buying something online. A particularly minuscule obstacle fell on Monday as Twitter made it possible for users to add items to their Amazon shopping carts with a tweet.
Just enable the service on your Twitter (TWTR) and Amazon (AMZN) accounts, and you can add a product discussed on Twitter by replying to the tweet and adding the hashtag #amazoncart. The next time you visit Amazon, the item will be in your cart, and you can then complete the purchase.
In theory, this will keep users from forgetting to purchase something seen in their Twitter timeline. Did this obstacle ever actually exist? Who knows. At one point this morning, only about 10 percent of the tweets that used #amazoncart even included a link to an Amazon product page, according to iTrendTV, a Twitter analytics firm. Many of the hashtag’s early adopters seemed to be misunderstanding the service or spoofing it, judging from the traffic on @MyAmazon, the account that tweets out receipts to people who add items to their carts. Then again, maybe Bridget Carey from CNET actually saw a tweet advertising a horsehead mask and decided she couldn’t let the moment pass.
The initial spike in attention was bound to come from Twittering cynics attempting to amuse one another. Perhaps the service will catch on. After all, the model for a successful advancement in online commerce goes like this: Technology companies make shopping easier, cynics scoff at the service—”Why would I ever give my credit card number to PayPal?” or “Why would I ever want to shop on my phone?”—and then people begin using the services. The model for unsuccessful advances in online commerce is the same, except for the last step.
If #amazoncart catches on, Amazon will presumably sell more horsehead masks, or banana slicers. Because users tweet their intentions to purchase things, it could also give some free social-media publicity to Amazon, Twitter, and the businesses using the services to sell their goods. There would have to be a lot of tweet-related shopping for Amazon to feel a difference. Its e-commerce business did $15.5 billion in sales last quarter, an increase of about 18 percent from the same period in 2013.
For Twitter, the deal presents only intangible benefits, since the service won’t get a cut of any sales that originate with tweets. What it might get is an additional way to induce people to use Twitter at a time when the company is having trouble attracting new users and coaxing existing users to stay engaged, leading some critics to suspect the start of a serious decline. If people like using the hashtag, they could find themselves turning to Twitter as a shopping environment. It could also inspire businesses selling things on Amazon to use Twitter to get the word out. All those things would give the company a stronger position to find other ways to make money directly. Then again, why would anyone want to shop directly through Twitter when Amazon and hundreds of other websites designed for shopping are just a click away?