Tumblr adds “Buy” button – is social commerce the next big thing?

Microblogging and social media platform Tumblr announced via their blog on Tuesday a new way for users to interact – and spend – with the implementation of a “Buy” button on posts from Etsy. Posts from three other sites – online art platform Artsy, crowdfunding site Kickstarter, and volunteering organization Do Something – will also automatically generate buttons to let users “Browse,” “Pledge,” or “Get Involved.”

With this, Tumblr has taken the first step towards enabling the platform for social commerce.Facebook and Twitterboth rolled out tests for in-app “Buy” buttons earlier this year, which allows users to purchase directly from a featured retailer without leaving the social network.


Left: Facebook’s “Buy” button; Right: Twitter’s “Buy” button

Tumblr’s “Buy” option works a little differently. For one, it’s not an in-app feature, meaning clicking the button will navigate the user away from Tumblr to the retailer’s website in order to complete the purchase. (To mitigate this, users can also choose to send purchase reminders to the email address associated with their Tumblr accounts.) For another, the action buttons are limited to the four specific websites for now, which makes for a considerably smaller reach than Facebook and Twitter’s iterations. Finally, as of now the test is limited to the desktop version of Tumblr, whereas Facebook and Twitter’s versions include mobile integration.

Still, the potential is there – and if well-received, Tumblr could very well take a leading role in the rise of social commerce. The microblogging site has overtaken Instagram as the fastest-growing social platform, charting a 120% growth in active user base over the past six months. Plus, their demographic skews young, urban, and rich: with a median household income of $80,075, Tumblr users have more disposable income than Twitter and Facebook users, reported as averaging at $79,562 and $70,124, respectively.


Graph credit: Adobe 2014 Mobile Benchmark Report

They’re not afraid to spend, either. According to Adobe’s 2014 Mobile Benchmark Report, even though 78% of Tumblr shares are posted via desktop, Tumblr referrals produce highest revenue per visit (RPV) from mobile devices. Aspiring fashionistas and trendy urbanites who post coveted items from different retail sites generate an average RPV of $2.57 on tablets and 67 cents on smartphones. Tumblr leads Facebook by a significant margin, where a referral is worth $1.55 on tablets and 42 cents on smartphones.

Of course, the sheer size of Facebook’s user base – 1.35 billion monthly active users as of September 2014 – is an important factor in crunching the numbers. Even with a lower median income and RPV, Facebook’s social commerce efforts will likely take a lion’s share of profits. Still, Tumblr’s move bodes well for the development of social commerce as a revenue-generating eCommerce channel. Mobile commerce is definitely dominating 2014, as last weekend’s Thanksgiving sales numbers attest. But who knows? 2015’s title might just belong to social commerce.