Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) continued its push into m-commerce last week with the announcement of Twitter Offers, a test program that could shake up the mobile coupon landscape with easily-redeemable social deals.
The new service will allow retailers to target special deals to users right in their Twitter feed, essentially becoming another platform for mobile couponing since the social network's user base has long been primarily on smartphones and tablets. But it's the ease with which both customers and businesses can redeem those deals that could set Twitter Offers apart.
According to a post on Twitter's Advertising Blog, users can add an offer to their credit or debit card straight from their timeline. Once that's done, the offer is tied to their card, allowing shoppers to simply swipe their card at the store in question and get cash back on their statement within a few days. There are no coupons to fiddle with and for retailers, no special POS adjustment or cumbersome training to get cashiers up to speed.
"If it works as promised, it would appear to be a powerful offer engine that could deliver a lot of value to consumers and drive incremental sales for merchants," said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group in Atlanta. "The question is whether or not it does indeed work as promised, and also if they can get sufficient scale on the offer side to drive consumer interest."
Another hiccup could be shoppers' ever present concern about security. The first time a user adds an offer to their card, Twitter will store that card's encrypted information in order to make adding future deals easier. Card data can be removed at any time, but that negates the smooth experience that would be the Twitter Offers' greatest strength.
If the service does make it past the testing phase, it will enter a crowded market for mobile coupons, as programs like Walmart's e-receipts, Checkout 51, and even less traditional location-based platforms like StepsAway gain popularity. Twitter could end up having the edge, though, thanks to its appeal to younger demographics that might prefer the seamless experience of something like Twitter Offers right in social media streams.
The in-stream offers are Twitter's latest effort to move into the m-commerce arena as it searches for new revenue sources a year after its IPO. Two months ago, the social network debuted its much anticipated "buy" button to a limited group of testers.
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