Button madness: big tech players make buying a click away

Websites like Pinterest, Google and Amazon have all fallen for the allure of a button. It’s a straightforward, effective way to achieve something. In terms of shopping, it bypasses all the usual steps someone has to go through to purchase something and gets right to the heart of what the customer wants.

Buttons appease even those impatient 21st century shoppers who find clicking through a couple of pages to be a waste of time they could be spending aimlessly scrolling their Facebook newsfeed, or playing Candy Crush. Facebook and Twitter began testing ‘buy’ buttons on their websites in 2014. The two social media platforms haven’t experienced a mass exodus of users protesting the advertising, so other sites are jumping on the bandwagon in fear of missing out.

Here’s a lowdown on what other buttons have emerged for your clicking pleasure:

  • Pinterest has announced a buy button that will be equipped to sell more than two million products later this month via iPhone and iPad. Chief executive Ben Silbermann says installing a buy button has been Pinterest users’ number one request, seeing as most use the platform to curate a product wishlist.

He told an audience at the company’s San Francisco headquarters that Pinterest is unique in the fact that users aren’t necessarily looking to buy something, but after being struck by inspiration while using the site, they may get the urge to. “Pinterest isn’t about getting your chores done. It is about helping you discover beautiful products that you love,” Silbermann said. Users can buy things without having to leave Pinterest’s app.

Retailers will be able to use ‘Promoted Pins’, Pinterest’s advertising unit, to get their products in front of new eyeballs.

  • Instagram, another photo-based application that’s owned by Facebook, has also announced a new advertising function that lets retailers sell from their mobile app. Its button encourages users to either click through to an ecommerce site, to install an app or to sign up to a mailing list. It opens a mini-browser within the app, so the user is done purchasing they’ll be returned to Instagram.

The differing buttons ‘Shop Now’, ‘Install Now’ and ‘Sign Up’ will appear below an image, allowing businesses to directly market specific products featured in the photo. Global head of business and brand development James Quarles told Tech Crunch it’s not announcing in-app commerce today, like Facebook, but it is watching the space closely. “We want to help reduce the friction from the point of inspiration to transaction,” Quarles said.

  • Google has recently announced its plans to introduce a buy now button to its search results.

Speaking at the Code Conference in California, Google’s chief business officer Omid Kordestani said a buy button was imminent.

This means shoppers can purchase products directly after doing a Google search, rather than having to go to a separate site to make the transaction. It says it will create a superior mobile user experience by streamlining the process rather than having multiple loading pages, seeing as such a vast amount of online shopping traffic is coming through mobile.

Experts warn that although Google isn’t planning on taking a cut of the revenue, retailers may miss out on important consumer data when a purchase is made. Other issues that can arise are a less specialised customer service and Google’s third party buy button not being able to keep up with stock quantities or backorders.

  • YouTube has also been having a bit of fun with buttons recently, releasing dual-narrative brand ad that simultaneously showed the sporty and responsible side of Honda. When viewers pushed the R button, the story flipped, showing the protagonist as both an ordinary father and a getaway driver.     

On the e-commerce side, the video-streaming platform has also introduced an interactive addition that allows viewers to click on products displayed in ads and make a purchase without navigating to a different site. 

As explained on Google’s introduction of the serviceTrueView for shopping allows you to showcase product details and images – along with the ability to click to purchase from a brand or retail site – all within your video ad. It’s available for TrueView in-stream video ads on YouTube. And since we know that 50 percent of views on YouTube come from mobile devices, we’ve made sure that it works seamlessly across mobile phones, desktops, and tablets.”

  • The Amazon dash button released in April this year may have given Google a kick up the backside to compete with the ecommerce giant. 

The Amazon button differs from the aforementioned buttons, as it is a physical button that you press in real life. Amazon has partnered with businesses like Gilette and Tide to create a wifi-enabled controller. The button is designed to be stuck somewhere convenient and be pressed when a person is running low on a product, like washing powder.

Amazon will then deliver the product to the person’s home.

And while it has no discernible purpose, the mysterious Reddit button emerged on the internet like something out of the TV show Lost.

In April, Reddit launched a button and a countdown clock with an ominous message: “You can only press the button once,” it said. “We can’t tell you what to do from here on out. The choice is yours.”

No one knows what happens when the countdown reaches zero, because click-happy internet users haven’t stopped pressing it. It’s now had more than one million pushes in two months. Button madness is upon us. By the looks of things, the online and offline world will soon be filled with them.


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