Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram began trialing Buy buttons in the U.S. this year, but the real promise could be in Asia.
"Buy" buttons are set to take off in Asia in 2015, as e-commerce becomes increasingly popular in the region, industry experts say.
The call-to-action functionality lets users make purchases from online platforms without leaving the site, giving them the option to store their payment information for future checkouts and giving marketers increased access to consumer data.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram unveiled Buy button trial services in the U.S. earlier this year and rumors that search giant Google will be introducing its own Buy button were revealed just earlier today. But burgeoning e-commerce sales coupled with high smartphone penetration rates across Asia mean the real potential could lie in this region, experts believe.
"The Click will be replaced with the Buy," says Paul Srivorakul, regional chief executive (CEO) for aCommerce – a Bangkok-based e-commerce business. "All the major platforms are moving to it, including Apple Pay, Google Wallet, eBay with PayPal, and Alibaba with Alipay."
Asia already boasts some of the world's highest social media penetration rates, and is tipped to surpass North America as global leader in e-commerce sales next year, according to eMarketer.
China in particular will make up more than half of the region's e-commerce sales this year, and 70 percent by 2018.
"Asia is a lot more e-commerce-focused than other parts of the world and Buy buttons will bode well here, especially markets like China – where they will buy anything at all and the platforms are enabled already to facilitate buying," says Andy Radovic, regional director for digital (APAC) at Maxus.
Radovic advises brands already in e-commerce to also get on platforms offering Buy buttons, as they eliminate some steps in the purchase journey.
Companies who are moving in this direction include Korean instant messaging app Line. The firm boasts more than 560 million global users, with concentrated markets in Korea, Japan, and parts of Southeast Asia including Thailand, and recently announced plans for its new payment service, Line Pay. This comes shortly after China's WeChat launched its WeChat Pay in March.
"I think people in this region are already ahead of the curve," Radovic says. "Twitter has almost come in a little late."
Mobile devices are expected to further accelerate Buy button use across Asia, by allowing users access to the technology on the go.
In China alone, mobile payments for the first 10 months of the year accounted for 54 percent of all transactions conducted over Alipay, according to the company's annual spending report.
"Mobile is making purchasing even faster," says Srivorakul. "You see an advertisement, and you are now 30 seconds away from a purchase. You now have a cash register and a research tool in the palm of your hand with mobile."
"The Buy button revolution will be led by Facebook as it continues to experiment with its e-commerce offerings, but once they open it up, every company will be asking which other platforms they can be on."
Ohad Hecht, the chief operating officer for digital marketing agency Emarsys, believes Buy buttons will be particularly popular in China, where the market is controlled by e-commerce giant Alibaba with its Taobao and Tmall platforms.
"There is an ability to influence the market quite quickly. If Twitter and Amazon do it, China will do it as well," he says.
Hecht predicts that after China, Buy button use in Asia will be followed by Korea and Japan. New Zealand and Australia, with existing strong e-commerce infrastructure in place, will also join this group of early adopters. India will catch up in the second half of 2015, alongside other countries in Southeast Asia.
The challenges for brands in Asia will be around infrastructure and ensuring the entire e-commerce ecosystem is in place from customer service to deliveries, Hecht says, adding that privacy could be the make or break with consumers.
"We will see a reality of Buy buttons, but at the same time, companies will be able to gather more data. The technology will be there but not all buyers will like it."
As Buy buttons become more popular, brands will also need to consider their points of differentiation.
"It's going to be more competitive to get people to click on that Buy button. The challenge will be the ability to stand out and this will be around the message, the creative, the timeliness, the brand's reputation, and the content," says Radovic.
"For any platform to be successful in this region, there needs to be an instant ability for e-commerce. I feel we are already here, already buying, and any platform that wants to be successful in Asia must have a Buy button."