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Buying Stuff on Your Smartphone May Not Suck for Much Longer

The race to turn your phone into a portable cash machine is well underway.
September 14, 2015, 8:36pm

Are you ready to buy shoes from a tweet? One online payments company thinks it's finally figured out how to make buying stuff on your phone less of a hassle.

Stripe, which process payments for big name companies like Lyft and Shopify, today launched a tool for merchants called Relay, which allows them to sell their wares inside apps like Twitter. The ideal scenario that Stripe presents is a consumer seeing an interesting product inside a tweet, having that consumer say, "Yes, I want that," then clicking a "buy" button located within the tweet. Buying a dress directly from a tweet would look something like this:

Stripe CEO Patrick Collison said this afternoon that the company's goal is to make buying goods from mobile apps feels less like "an obstacle course" than it currently does.

And while that's a laudable goal, there's the small matter that, so far, Twitter is the only social network that has signed on to work with Relay, and Twitter's not exactly burning up the charts in terms of number of users actively using the platform. Pinterest says it's "looking forward" to seeing how the initiative "evolves," while Facebook is already experimenting with its own "buy button."

For ordinary internet users, the important thing to understand here is less that Stripe thinks it can become the e-commerce middleman for the mobile era, and more the recognition that no one has quite yet figured out how to make buying goods from mobile apps a pleasant experience. There's a big pot of gold for the company that does, since, according to Stripe, only 15 percent of online purchases come from mobile devices, despite the fact that 60 percent of all web browsing is now mobile.