Social media platforms are continually evolving and maturing in a number of ways, and one of the on-the-horizon changes lies in the future of mobile payments. Social platforms used to be a place for brands to reach their consumers to further a brand’s image, increase awareness, drive traffic to a website, push a promotion, or any other bright ideas. While platforms may still serve that purpose for a while yet, they’re about to become shopping platforms themselves. The “buy” button will soon become relevant and ubiquitous in the social media user experience. Payments are at the core of this change, and Stripe is one of the major players. President and co-founder John Collison sat down with Re/code Senior Editor Jason Del Ray for a one-on-one conversation at Social Media Week in New York on Wednesday, to address the implications of this seismic shift.
Collison touched on why mobile payment has been broken for so long. He feels it was never thought of in a mobile-first way. We often hear about brands needing to think mobile-first when it comes to their messaging, their content, and how they reach their consumers. Why, then, were payments being done in such an antiquated way?
Collison likened past mobile payment to “1980s mail order forms”; rather than folks using a paper and pen to punch in all their information, line by line, we’re using our fingers and a screen. The experience really hadn’t changed, it was just that we were doing it in a different place. This is the antithesis of a mobile-first attitude. Furthermore, Collison pointed out that many retailers responded to selling their merchandise online by essentially re-creating the in-store experience for the desktop. Customers browse, put things in their shopping cart, and checkout. As a peek at a mobile-first shopping app, Collison mentioned Spring, which presents products in an Instagram-like feed.
If eCommerce brands begin to think more mobile-first, will there be a future for social media platforms as commerce platforms? Or will brands try to drive consumers to their own apps, where the shopping can be done? That might be an unnecessary step. Collison believes that social networks will act as commerce platforms because brands will always want to reach consumers where they are. And if one takes a cursory look at the most-downloaded mobile apps, social network and messaging apps are still king. So it would be irresponsible for brands to ignore social media as a place where consumers can do their shopping.
There’s a benefit in here for advertisers as well. Often, social ROI can be difficult to define and track. If brands put out content on social media which allows for seamless, one-click purchasing, it will be clear that the sale came directly from social media contact. The line won’t have to be drawn from one point of the customer journey to another.
One of the interesting comparisons Collison made was the past idea of payments being like regional DVD lock codes. It’s a great point. The word Collison used was “Balkanization”; how traditional payment methods aren’t global and are, instead, confined to certain areas of the world. Stripe is one of the innovators here, trying to eliminate the traditional boundaries that both commerce companies and consumers face when it comes to payments. He referenced Uber, its mobile-first platform and modern, mobile payment system as a brand that has quickly cast a wide net across the globe.
As more brands start adjusting to advancements in mobile payments and offer seamless, one-click buying experiences, those who don’t will surely find themselves having to keep up. Coupled with the fact that companies are going to have to start paying up to make their presence felt on social, the way brands present themselves on our social media feeds will likely take on a new look.
Instead of piggybacking on a hashtag, companies, especially those in eCommerce, may be best-served offering easy access to their products or services. Why make consumers take an extra step when you don’t have to?