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How Stripe is letting merchants turn their tweets into storefronts

Patrick Collison, right, with his brother and business partner John.Patrick Collison, right, with his brother and business partner John.
Patrick Collison, right, with his brother and business partner John.Photograph by Gabriela Hasbun for Fortune

Stripe, the hot payments processing startup that’s been partnering with everyone from ride-hailing company Lyft to Facebook, will now let businesses sell products through tweets.

On Monday, the company said merchants can use its new service to sell products directly through Twitter, giving them access to potentially millions of shoppers. The new service, Relay, will serve as bridge between merchants that want to sell their products and mobile app developers like Twitter that want to be a springboard for e-commerce without sending customers to third-party apps or a web browser.

People using Twitter may occasionally see shoppable tweets in their timelines pitching products from eyewear company Warby Parker, department store Saks Fifth Avenue, or cosmetics brand Glossier. Users simply click on the “buy” button and input a few key pieces of information, including their credit card information and name, from a pop-up window within the Twitter app.

By keeping the transaction within Twitter, Stripe is hoping to reduce the number of people who abandon their shopping after being taken to another app. Although Relay was built primarily with mobile shopping in mind, it does also work on desktop, at least for Twitter.

To create its new service, Stripe has partnered with SAP on a software tool for retailing, although more software partners may be added later. Merchants can use the software to upload product catalogs, then embed what they want to sell into tweets or other shopping apps working with Stripe like Shopstyle and Spring.

Merchants can avoid having to integrate separately with different apps. Merchants that don’t want to use inventory management software can also use Relay’s dashboard or data feed.

Relay’s premiere is not exactly a surprise. At Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in July, Stripe co-founder John Collison hinted at it by saying that buy buttons were only going to become more important. Shoppers on mobile will “think, ‘Oh awesome, I don’t have to go to this site… I can perform the action in a single step,’” he said. “The apps that don’t have this are going to seem broken by comparison.”

At Relay’s unveiling at an event in San Francisco on Monday, Collison told Fortune that the company’s been working on it since the beginning of this year and that it is an important part of Stripe’s product lineup. The company already provides other tools for customers with online marketplaces, like ride-hailing company Lyft, and for those selling subscriptions.

Stripe’s new product highlights the shift by social media companies towards e-commerce. Early on, Twitter and Facebook pitched themselves as important venues for advertisers to reach millions of users. After getting noticed, marketers to lure those users onto their websites to buy something.

But now, the rise of buy buttons are creating a new purpose for these social media channels: places for actual commerce.

Stripe, which is valued $5 billion, has already been working with Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, powering their buy buttons. Monday’s announcement is separate from the button Twitter has been testing with Stripe, however.

Though the company is likely in talks with more of these social media companies to expand Relay’s availability, neither company executive from Stripe we spoke with would comment on any upcoming partnerships.

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