Buy buttons were a big topic last year while it has not yet taken off. Are buy buttons ahead of their time?

In battle of the buy buttons last year, all of the major industry players – including Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram – were racing to develop their own version, promising that this feature could help retailers accelerate online sales.

This year, however, buy buttons are not really moving the needle for retailers as they are supposed to.

Therefore, we cannot help thinking, have buy buttons been introduced too soon?

The status quo

Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram have all developed buy buttons as an ecommerce solution.

Twitter has integrated a “Buy now” call-to-action into its tweet feed.

Twitter buy button

By the same token, Facebook has integrated buy buttons into its news feed and the shop section in company pages.

Facebook buy button

Facebook-owned Instagram also developed “Shop Now” buttons and other messages that link outside the app to let users take marketable action.


Of course, Pinterest does not fall behind in the social commerce game. The visual platform rolled out buyable pins last year that are placed in users’ home feed, on boards and in search results.

Users can click on a buyable pin, tap the “Buy it” button and pay with Apple Pay or a credit card, within the app.


Aside from social media networks, Google also debuted a new feature called Purchases on Google last year, where the company added buy buttons to some promoted mobile search results, taking users to a page where they could shop the advertised product.

Google buy buttons

Buy buttons haven’t taken off, yet

While it is a no-brainer for major digital marketing platforms to develop their own buy buttons as a response to the intersection of social media and commerce, retailers are not yet buying into (Read more...) technology.

There are two major reasons why buy buttons seem premature at the moment.

First, social does not drive enough traffic to ecommerce sites, as Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru points out in her post that more and more ecommerce traffic is organic. For example, shoppers enter a company’s URL directly or arrive via a product or brand search on Google.

While Ben Hordell, partner at DXagency, thinks that with the combination of paid media and quality brand content, the traffic potential to ecommerce from social could be huge, he agrees that for now, organic search plays a bigger role than social in driving traffic to ecommerce sites.

“Are people spending a ton of money buying on the spot via social and not leaving the network? Not yet. For now, when a user has decided to buy a product they will either go directly to the URL or Google the product. Search traffic and direct traffic are right there at the bottom of the funnel,” says Hordell.

Secondly, buy buttons have not yet become a habit for online and mobile shoppers, despite the fact that all big technology companies have been testing this feature.

“The move from social media outlets to ecommerce is no small feat [but] it will probably take three to five years to become widely accepted,” says Joshua Keller, chief executive officer of Union Square Media.

“While users are becoming more educated on direct purchasing from social media platforms, there may be an eventual shift that makes buy buttons as well-known as the like button. As with any change, it will take time for users to adjust,” he adds.

The future

As Keller mentioned above, buy buttons have not yet taken off but this technology has a big ecommerce potential. Indeed, buy buttons can expedite the process of online purchasing and keep up with the Internet’s rapid growth.

There may not be a major shift in how shoppers purchase anytime soon, but buy buttons are likely to gain popularity going forward and thus become a revenue driver.

make it rain

“The buy button is something you happen upon while casually browsing social, you don’t seek it; it finds you. Because of that, I don’t see a major shift in user behavior. That being said, with more brands, more products and hopefully a good economy the revenue numbers from buy buttons will continue to grow,” says DXagency’s Hordell.

He adds that buy buttons could be a bit presumptuous for new consumers and negatively impact brand discovery as this feature does not let shoppers explore other products or even the brand story that might live on the company’s website.

Buy buttons could work nicely for well-known brands though, especially when they promote limited editions or events.

Final thoughts

Buy buttons have not yet become mainstream. But as soon as levels of trust and familiarity rise, this feature will be able to capitalize on impulse buys.

By then, retailers big or small will need buy buttons to build direct relationships with their consumers.

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marc jacobs

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