Just announced—still in its beta stage and currently available in the U.S. only—is Amex's new program allowing consumers to make purchases via Twitter. Essentially, if a customer follows AMEX Sync on Twitter (synching their credit card with their Twitter account) and sees a deal tweeted by AMEX, they could send a special hashtag tweet to buy the product. No forms required, no need to type out credit card numbers and expiry dates, no time wasted in the process.
For social media sites—many of which have been losing money for years—this represents a potentially lucrative way to engage their customers. "This just seems to be an incredible, ideal way to do that," says Jeff Quipp, founder and CEO of Search Engine People, an Ajax, Ont.-based search engine optimization and marketing agency. The trend is unlikely to stay restricted to Twitter, he adds. "I think you'll see a lot of other social media sites start to do hashtagging or at least a similar kind of functionality."
Online security is a concern for many customers and retailers, but Quipp doesn't see this program as creating extra layers of worry. "I don't see any additional risks, to be honest," Quipp says, since a user's account is synched to a particular address where the purchase is shipped. "To me it's pretty safe as long as someone doesn't set up a false profile with one of your credit cards."
The idea of reaching customers and compelling them to make a quick and easy purchase by way of a hashtag message has implications for advertising, too. "Imagine this starts to take off," says Quipp. "We're going to start to see it in television ads, Facebook ads, magazine ads and in radio commercials." He adds, "It's a great concept for radio commercials. It's very difficult to get you to buy something from a radio ad, but in this case they can take you right from a radio ad to a purchase."
Those eager to dive in immediately, however, may have to cool their heels (or tweeting thumbs). "I do see a slow start with this just because people will be wary, just as people are wary with anything revolutionary," Quipp explains. Once it gets going, though, he predicts there will be some big players involved quite quickly. "I think as it starts to prove itself you're going to see Visa and MasterCard watching very intently and probably roll it out sometime in the future."
There's an interesting marketing side note to this, as well, adds Quipp. "Theoretically I should be able to see everyone who has bought from a competitor and theoretically I should be able to see everything that a friend buys (through Twitter and other social media accounts)."
Read: Mobile Payments
For Quipp, there are no downsides to this opportunity just yet. "I have no concerns about this right now as it stands," he says. "I really like the concept. It's so simple."