Twitter enters e-commerce arena with Early Bird Exclusive Offers

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Microblogging site Twitter launched the Early Bird Exclusive Offers e-commerce service July 6. The initiative is the social network's first endeavor into online shopping as it seeks to add revenue streams.

The program will allow Twitter and select advertisers to promote time- and supply-sensitive deals on products and events, such as concert tickets. Twitter users who subscribe to @earlybird will see the offers in their feeds. Consumers are led to the point of purchase after a few clicks.

Twitter will generate revenue through its agreements with advertisers. The microblogging site was criticized through 2009 for lacking an obvious business model. Other recent attempts to raise revenue include Promoted Tweets and sponsored trending topics.

“It seems like a fairly modest early entry,” said Augie Ray, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “In fact, I'm not even sure I'd call it e-commerce at this point. It seems to be much more positioned as a bit of an advertising play, to be honest. It's a different strategy for them because they haven't been content producers.”

It is unclear when the first deal will be posted to the feed. As of July 7, the @earlybird page, which has more than 15,000 followers, included only a link to frequently asked questions about the program.

“What @earlybird on Twitter does is it gives brands an extra opportunity to reach more eyes, and certainly this @earlybird account will draw plenty of eyes,” Ray said.

While Twitter said on its blog that it plans “to choose exciting deals,” retailers will determine the prices of items and how many will be available.

The concept is similar to strategies implemented by marketers including Dell and JetBlue, which regularly post deals on their own Twitter pages. The move also makes Twitter a competitor to other daily-deal websites, including Groupon and Woot.

A Twitter representative referred calls seeking comment to a company blog on the service launch.

Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communications at JetBlue Airways, said the airline is open to the idea of advertising or offering deals on @earlybird, adding that it uses Twitter's Promoted Tweets.

“We try to be an innovative company,” Johnston said. “We try to always look for what's going on in the future. As new products and services and initiatives develop, we're certainly going to take a look at them and see if they work with our strategy."

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