A new Twitter feature could represent a big step forward in turning the 140-character message system into an actual retail tool, according to the payment-card blog Pymnts.com.
Twitter rolled out three new types of "cards" on Tuesday night (April 2). (Twitter cards are hard to explain, but, simply put, when a tweet links to a Web page containing special HTML tags, some of the page's content is displayed as a "card" below the text of the tweet.) The new card with the most obvious retail use is the product card, which can show a product image and description, along with two more fields to display more details such as price and store location.
Twitter is obviously thinking of this for use in e-commerce — among the first partners it has signed up are the crafts marketplace Etsy.com and wine seller WineLibrary.com. But there's no special reason bricks-and-mortar retailers couldn't use this effectively too. Chains like Target (NYSE:TGT) already use Twitter as a customer-service channel, but the short message limit has made it less useful for marketing in the past. Product cards might change that.
Still unclear is how quickly retailers will be able to get product cards approved. Twitter isn't automatically approving product cards (they'll have to be individually submitted through Twitter's cards validator).
Also unknown: exactly what the pitfalls are for this kind of micro-ad. There's a very limited space for product descriptions (200 characters, which is still a 40 percent increase over a standard tweet), so they'll have to be crafted very carefully. And for any limited-time offer (and all pricing is by definition for a limited time), retailers will have to carefully manage the Web pages containing the product information so product cards with outdated pricing won't still show up years later.