TwoTap Streamlines E-Commerce For Mobile App and Website Developers

This guest post comes from Marc Mezzacca, founder of NextGen Shopping, a company dedicated to creating innovative shopping mashups.  Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I'm an online shopper who loves efficiency and hates filling out forms, so TwoTap's solution that automates the checkout process across top e-commerce websites immediately grabbed my attention. Not only does TwoTap help automate checkout, but the TwoTap API gives developers a new way to handle referral-based e-commerce. With just a few calls to the API, developers can complete a purchase on a customer's behalf.

Here's an example. Let's say you're a developer with a fashion discovery app. You have product data coming from a variety of retailers (Gap, Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Macy's, etc.) and one of your users finds a nice spring dress from Nordstrom. She decides to purchase it. Normally, at this point, you'd send her off to the website. But suppose you could keep her in your app to fully complete the purchase. You can do just that if you've integrated with the TwoTap API.

Capturing the sale in-app is incredibly important in mobile apps, where window shopping is high and conversion rates are still very low. The merchant still handles the transaction, and TwoTap doesn't handle any of the credit card processing. In fact, TwoTap is built on top of the merchant's existing e-commerce system, so no integration is required by the merchant. This differentiates it from other systems like Google Wallet, which offers a two-click checkout process through its Instant Buy APIs, but requires a bit of integration by the merchant.

Continuing from the previous example, the revenue model of choice is likely affiliate-based. In the affiliate model, the website or app passes the user to a retail website to make a purchase, and referring party is rewarded a commission when a purchase is made. There are two things at play that are currently a concern in this type of referral-based e-commerce: abandonment and attribution.

Abandonment in the shopping cycle (i.e., shopping cart abandonment) is a huge problem. When you send your user out of your app or website, you lose control of the environment. If the retailer's site isn't mobile-optimized, problems instantly arise. If it's the user's first time shopping on that website, it means forms to fill out. The more actions (clicks, typing, etc.) a user must execute to make a purchase, the higher the likelihood that user will abandon the purchase. Customers want things done instantly and effortlessly (which is one reason Amazon has been so successful with its Prime shipping and One-Click checkout).

The other concern, specifically for an affiliate marketer, is that of losing the commission. The widely accepted affiliate attribution model is known as the "last-click attribution." In this model, the last website or app to send the user to the retailer's website gets 100% of the referral commission on the sale. So a product discovery app which comes at the beginning of a consumer's shopping cycle has a much higher probability of losing out to something farther down the line, such as a price alert, price comparison, or coupon/loyalty app or website.

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TwoTap helps eliminate both of these concerns by allowing the developer to have complete control of the purchase cycle. A digital wallet provided by TwoTap cuts down on the number of actions required of the end-user. And since the entire transaction can happen in-app, the chance of a completed sale increases and the appropriate affiliate attribution credit is guaranteed.

Of course, building directly on top of the existing shopping cart has its own issues. If a retailer changes its site, this could potentially cause the TwoTap system to fail. However, TwoTap has taken the necessary precautions to set up an alert system which allows it to fix these types of issues within minutes.

From a technology standpoint, integration with TwoTap seems pretty straightforward. A pre-built HTML5 widget-based implementation exists for developers who want quick integration. There's  RESTful API for those who want a fully customizable experience.

A few mobile apps have already integrated with TwoTap, such as Shopsy, and many more existing apps could benefit from this technology—fashion discovery app Kaleidoscope and decor recommendation app RoomHints come to mind.

It'll be interesting see how retailers, developers and affiliate marketers react to this type of evolution in e-commerce technology. Anything that makes the process more efficient seems like a strong move in the right direction to me.

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