Friday, January 18, 2013

Behold: Frictionless, Conversational Commerce!

By Marc Dresner, IIR
If you’re not already familiar with Chirpify, you’re not alone. But don’t be surprised if the name becomes as common to social media vernacular as the network that inspired it.
Many people first heard about the start-up last summer after an 80-year-old artist’s attempt to “restore” a 100-year-old fresco of Jesus Christ in Spain went disastrously, almost comically wrong and the results went viral.
On the heels of the “Ecce Homo” fiasco (as the botched project has come to be known), an artist/musician plastered the messianic mess on a T-shirt and sold hundreds of them. Directly. To her followers. On Twitter. In a matter of hours. Through Chirpify.
Ironically, to that point, nary a peep had been uttered about the fledgling company, which raised $1.3 million in a Series A round back in April.
But the significance of several thousand dollars in T-shirt sales didn’t escape the attention of The Wall Street Journal and other business press this time for good reason: The incident officially ushered in the age of frictionless, conversational commerce.
Chirpify Senior Account Manager Heath Black claims that social media heretofore haven’t been successfully deployed in the payments industry due largely to “friction”—too many steps on the current path to purchase between a social network and checkout.
Social media haven’t been successfully deployed in the payments industry due largely to “friction”—too many steps on the path to purchase between a social network and checkout

Heath Black
If you’re starting from a social media platform, he explained, to buy something from a merchant online you must link from the social network to a website, locate the advertised item, log in or sign up and jump through whatever other hoops may be required to make the purchase.
“Friction is burdensome and causes tension,” said Black, “so there’s a high probability that the customer will abandon their quest along the way.”
Worse yet, friction effectively negates the contextual value of a social media interaction.
“The seller starts out talking to an engaged audience, but then has had to pull them off the social medium—out of and away from the conversation—in order to complete the transaction,” said Black. “You lose the social aspect of the sale.”
Chirpify, by contrast, enables merchants and customers to transact financially and relationally at once by eliminating the need to leave the social network.
Chirpify enables merchants and customers to transact financially and relationally at once by eliminating the need to leave the social network

How it works: Chirpify links the user’s Twitter account to a Paypal account. Sellers—individuals, companies, political fundraisers—tweet whatever it is they’re selling. The Twitter user simply hits reply and types in “buy” (or some other short term prescribed by the seller like “gimme”) to complete the transaction in one clean, easy step.

The process is so simple, noted Black, that an independent artist who uses Chirpify remarked that compared to traditional ecommerce, “[Chirpify] feels like street vending.”
“On Twitter, the stream is the street,” said Black. That street currently spans customers in 43 countries. And because the money is routed through Paypal, Chirpify accepts multiple currencies in a secure environment. It’s also platform agnostic—smart or dumb phone, tablet, computer—the device doesn’t matter.
For those looking for proof of concept, Black estimates that Chirpify’s sign-up page—the one and only step that doesn’t involve a direct sale—has a 70% conversion rate (roughly seven times that of the average ecommerce site sign-up).
Chirpify also reportedly significantly outperforms traditional ad click-through rates (0.2%), averaging 1.3%.
But Chirpify’s most compelling feature may be its potential reach.
Black cited a campaign for a Nashville record label promoting free downloads of a new song. According to Black, within 2 hours the listing was re-tweeted 33 times, which translates to 115,000 potential viewers based on the average number of Twitter followers to whom it was re-tweeted.
It’s also worth noting that every re-tweet constituted a defacto endorsement by a trusted, independent source, not a targeted message from a marketer. “These are essentially word-of-mouth recommendations, only they’re broadcasted to anyone who follows the person who passes along the message,” said Black.
Lastly, for those companies grappling with Wannamaker’s dilemma, there’s no issue calculating the ROI on direct marketing through Chirpify. You just look at a tweet and see how it performs (the company collects a 4% commission on each sale).

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s senior editor and special communication projects lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the market research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.

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