Non-Stripe Backdrop

Stripe’s been in the general business news a lot recently since they’re getting ready for IPO. I’m not interested in discussing their valuation but rather an interesting feature they quietly released a couple months ago.

Back in September “Stripe Relay” was announced as a new way to add ecommerce into mobile apps and services. As launch partner, Twitter demonstrated a “Buy” button using Stripe Relay.

Stripe Relay screenshot

I thought about blogging about Stripe Relay back in September, but felt reluctant to do so.

Maybe a better word is cautious. After all, social commerce isn’t anything new. As a store owner you’ll probably remember the mad rush back in 2010 to figure out a way to do ecommerce on Facebook…but it never took off.

Putting products for sale on Facebook pages just kind of kills it, feels forced and awkward (if you have a Facebook store page and it’s doing great, more power to you. I’m talking about the general trend).

Shopping Mode

It’s a universal truth that people who aren’t in “shopping mode” don’t want to be sold to. Just remember the last time somebody somehow called you on your cel phone about “the latest Visa and MasterCard negotiated rates” when you were in a meeting.

I’ve been mulling it over, and the reason I’m excited about Stripe Relay is there might be a way here to allow merchants to get around the “shopping mode” mental roadblock.

Here’s my theory: with Stripe Relay, the purchase is not an interruption — it’s inline with the rest of the social media experience. Contrast this to the scenario from 5 years ago, the encouragement to “come to our Facebook store” couldn’t possibly feel natural because it was by definition an intrusion.

Starbucks at Church

Maybe this is why I have always felt weird about those churches that have a Starbucks inside them. Some of you know what I’m talking about — it’s a Starbucks literally inside the church. At church but need a coffee? It feels commercial, feels disconnected, feels like I’m at least semi-leaving the church experience to go into the retail experience and then come back out into the church experience.

Thought experiment: Imagine the coffee magically appeared in the pews, unobtrusively so it can be ignored if desired. This would be a profound improvement on the church Starbucks experience. Okay, that felt sacrilegious. Scratch the church analogy but hopefully you get the point.

Let me try to picture this a different (better!) way. Think about when you go out with friends to do something other than shopping. You may have paid for an activity or bought a drink in order to add to the social experience. But nothing is more frustrating than getting taken away from time with friends to deal with something about the payment for the meal / round of golf / whatever.

For further thought…

To me, Stripe Relay is interesting because the user never feels they’re having to transition into shopping mode…they stay in social mode. The option of buying is added with literally zero friction. It’s a “no UI” purchase experience.

And that’s as far as my thinking has gone. What do you think? Am I right about why Stripe Relay could be awesome?

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