3 Ways Relay from Stripe will Fundamentally Change the Future of the Ecommerce Industry

Relay, the new API from Stripe, has the potential to be a true ecommerce game-changer if it reaches scale. By allowing users to shop within native applications, this technology is essentially allowing brands to access and market to customers outside of their own ecommerce website.

Imagine if you were scrolling through your Twitter feed the weekend before a big game, and you came across a tweet from a sporting goods company allowing you to buy your favorite player’s jersey at a special, discounted price.

You click the “buy” button, enter your info, and you’re done. No redirects. No buggy checkout. Complete the process within Twitter, then get back to browsing your feed and catching up on the latest from @StartupLJackson.

This is exactly what Relay allows a brand to do. By being able to target a potential customer by presenting them with the right item at the right time (and providing them with a quick and painless checkout procedure), brands can gain a sale that might have been an abandoned cart had the customer been rerouted to their website.

Take that same scenario and apply it to a different platform like Instagram. (Instagram, by the way, has not yet been integrated with Relay.) Brands could potentially promote an image of their product and make it shoppable inside Instagram.

Instagram is all about helping your customers discover your new products. Imagine the sales you could capture in that initial period of discovery if a customer could purchase right from Instagram. Not having to go to an external site to act on that initial “wow factor” could be the difference that gets you a sale.

Empowering customers to shop within the native platform from which they’re browsing is incredibly promising when thinking in terms of potential revenue. The possibilities (now) seem endless.

Could this make ecommerce websites obsolete? Probably not.

But, it could fundamentally change how your customers shop online and change how you’re approaching your customer acquisition strategy. Twitter drives one-fourth the amount of mobile ecommerce traffic as Pinterest, despite a user base three times larger. (source) Tapping into this audience with Relay can mean big things and more dollars for your ecommerce business.

Twitter drives 1/4 the amount of mobile ecommerce traffic as Pinterest, despite a user base 3x larger

Platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce and DemandWare have already enabled their customers to easily integrate their product catalog and inventory with Relay. Think about that for a second: Relay can know your inventory.

You can promote products to specific segments of your social followers (in the case of Twitter), offer a promotional price, and deliver an easy shopping experience without making the user leave Twitter’s platform. All the while, your inventory remains updated. Sounds like a well-oiled ecommerce machine with all parts working happily together.

Though Relay isn’t accessible to everyone yet, there’s no doubt it’s rolling out to more brands soon after these initial brands provide the data analysis needed to make it available for everyone. That means you may be able to experiment with it in the future. Right now it’s being tested with brands like Warby Parker, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Glossier.

To help wrap your head around the concept and breakthrough that is Relay, here are 3 reasons this new API can save your ecommerce business:

1. Reduces Friction at Checkout

Usually, when you purchase something online, you’re sent through a series of steps in order to complete your transaction. The number and complexity of these steps differ from brand to brand, and channel to channel. For example, your mobile checkout process will certainly be different from your desktop checkout experience.

Brands using social platforms to sell usually go about it by promoting the product and a unique URL to direct the user to the specific product page. Here’s an example from Target:

target social selling example for ecommerce business
[example of an ecommerce brand using a unique social link to sell products via desktop]

Let’s look at that same example on mobile:

target social selling example for mobile ecommerce business
[example of an ecommerce brand using a unique link on Twitter to sell products via mobile]

These are slightly different processes, but what do you notice about both the desktop and mobile checkouts?

You are redirected from the original platform: Twitter.

Target has a well-built mobile site, so I had no issues in switching over to my browser app from my Twitter app. But this is not true for all brands. Brands who do not have a mobile optimized site will definitely lose customers in this step, which means they’ll be missing out on sales.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly driving revenue increase for brands who have an established social presence. By the end of 2015, social selling will amount to $30 billion worldwide, a 50% increase from 2014’s $20 billion. (source)

Social selling will amount to $30 billion worldwide, a 50% increase from 2014

Now that you understand the projections of social selling and why there’s an added step causing friction for both the desktop and mobile processes, let’s look at how Relay reduces the friction.

No Switch: Relay Keeps Users on Twitter

“When we get linked to a shopping cart on our phone, we usually just give up.”  – Stripe blog

social selling for ecommerce brands Relay for Stripe
[This tweet from Huckberry redirects users to the product page on the Huckberry site]

The above image is an example of how most brands currently use Twitter as a platform to capture sales. Huckberry posted a unique link within their tweet, which links directly to that product page on their website, meaning if you’re click the link on mobile, you’ll be redirected to your default browser app, and if on desktop, to a new, separate tab.

The beauty of Relay is when users click on a product on Twitter, they can purchase within Twitter. No leaving the platform. No redirection to a new browser tab (if on desktop). The purchase process takes place in one, single place. Here’s a look at the buying process on mobile from Brit + Co., a brand that’s been able to experiment with implementing Relay:

Relay for Stripe Brit + Co. ecommerce social selling
[example of Brit + Co. using Relay for Stripe on Twitter]

Because the user is not moved around to different windows or platforms, the process becomes much easier. We all know that creating a UX that feels “easy” to the user is one of the best optimizations you can do for your business. Relay is a tool to help you do just that.

2. Reduces Amount of Abandoned Shopping Carts

60% of shoppers fail to complete a purchase because of a point of difficulty during checkout. (source) The minute there’s a problem during this process, the shopper gets frustrated and exits, leaving you with a lost sale and an increasing abandoned cart rate.

In the online shopping world, Amazon is without a doubt the player everyone looks to for good examples and best practices. Their one-step checkout has become the envy of smaller brands, and for good reason: customers love it! But let’s be practical: the one-step checkout is not the best choice for every online retailer. What Amazon does right that we should be focusing on is provide a smooth, painless checkout process.

For a minimal step checkout, it’s ideal for you to have a few things in place:

  • minimal number of fields required (only the most necessary info)
  • the ability to go back a step (if the user needs to review or re-enter details)
  • purchasing without creating an account (guest checkout)

Though you may not have all of these in place on your own site, Relay can make it happen! The above example from Brit + Co. was viewed on mobile. Let’s look at a user’s desktop experience with Relay using this tweet from Warby Parker:

ecommerce sale by Warby Parker with Relay for social selling on Twitter

The checkout experience here exhibits all three of the above criteria for creating a seamless checkout. You can even see that Warby Parker has optimized their Relay checkout by adding text links to FAQ’s about concerns shoppers might have when presented with such a minimal checkout (User confidence reduces the amount of abandoned carts). Because this tweet displays “About”, “Shipping”, and “Return” links to provide the user with more information, they’ll feel more secure and confident and in turn be more likely to purchase.

3. Expand Sales Beyond Twitter

Although Relay partnered with Twitter, SPRING, ShopStyle, and inMobil for its initial launch, the API can be integrated with any application. Other social platforms like Facebook and Pinterest have recently been dabbling in the purchase game with ‘buy buttons’ and ‘shoppable pins’, but what makes Relay different is that it is a technology that can be rolled out to any third-party application.

Think Instagram. Think Tubmlr. Think Snapchat, Facebook, and Pinterest. Though Stripe has not hinted to which integrations will be coming up next, the possibilities seem vast.

That’s good news for ecommerce owners because it means thatyou can capture sales on your most popular platform with Relay. Many brands have an extremely strong Instagram presence, but the ability to convert an image post to a sale is multi-faceted and not very easy. Imagine being able to post an image of your product on Instagram and allowing the user to buy directly from you without leaving instagram.

Tristan Walker, founder of breakout ecommerce brand Bevel, said it best:

Actually, this might be the most significant thing to happen in e-commerce in the past 5-10 years assuming it gets to scale.

— tristan walker (@tristanwalker) September 14, 2015

Furthermore, Stripe co-founder John Collison went as far as to say that after Relay becomes more widely-implemented, “The apps that don’t have this are going to seem broken by comparison.”

What Relay Means for Your Ecommerce Business

Whatever the size of your online store, this is a significant advancement in technology. Whether you have a small operating budget, or a budget that allows for significant dollars to be devoted to optimizing your ecommerce tech, Relay looks like it’s determined to cater to all shapes and sizes. The fact that the API is flexible enough to integrate with any third-party application shows that Stripe is trying to focus on thoroughly improving the ecommerce customer experience no matter the brand, no matter the platform. User first.

If Relay piques your interest, be smart and stay informed on updates. You can keep up with Stripe on Twitter and follow the Blue Stout team, too, for updates on its progress and what it means for the ecommerce community.

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