Startup Chirpify Lets Consumers Make Purchases With Hashtags

Chirpify, the startup that lets you buy and sell products via tweets and posts is announcing a new type of hashtag Thursday, allowing consumers to make purchases just by clicking what it’s dubbing “action tags.”

The Portland, Ore., company wants to turn hashtags like #buy or #donate into URLs, and reprogram the second screen audience to use their social accounts to acquire the products they see on television.

Here’s how Chirpify’s new play works: A business could display an ad on TV or online with instructions to #Buy #CocaCola, for example. Then consumers simply post that campaign tag to their social network and Chirpify processes the order through PayPal, credit and debit cards, and ACH payments, taking a flat fee of 2.9%.

Chirpify already works with big brands and celebrities like Adidas, Green Day, and the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, who pay between $2,500 and $5,000 a month to sell, fundraise and run promotions (both a transaction tool and a huge data source for brands). The company has offered more than 10,000 products since last year’s launch.

Forever 21, MasterCard and NPR are all signed on for the new hashtag service. This week, Estee Lauder’s Origin line launched a campaign for charity: water, with actress Emmy Rossum tweetiing as a spokesperson. MasterCard is also running a donation campaign for the non-profit, Stand Up To Cancer, asking consumers to post with the tags #DoGood and #donate.

Why I’m Interested: While social sales are not at all a new approach to the CRM landscape, even on Twitter, harnessing the power of Twitter and hashtags to allow customers to make in-the-moment online purchases, particularly with the rise of the second screen experience, seems to be a powerful potential online shopping tool.

I’m curious to see if this approach can survive, particularly when Twitter creates their own branded solution, or when people make the mistake of tweeting #buy, or even if the waters becomes too muddied when too many brands are hopping on to this train.

Nonetheless, given that Twitter’s ad sales more than doubled in 2012 alone, that half of all smartphone users claim to use their mobile device while watching TV, and that the company already claims to have a sales conversion rate of 4% (well beyond traditional web display conversion rates), this startup has the potential to really succeed and change the landscape of Twitter permanently. For now, it will depend on how receptive consumers are to this new #hashtag-based consumer approach.

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