Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social networks, but can it deliver customers for retailers?
Social media is part of everyday life. We’ve gone social and mobile en masse, impacting all forms of communication. Because of the cultural and social shifts involved, retailers are paying close attention to social media and its potential.
It’s viral and sticky because the social network is so powerful. Because they’re personal, social networks have significant influence on opinion; and influence is a valuable commodity for businesses and brands.
According to the Sociable Labs Social Impact Consumer Study, 57% of shoppers are more likely to buy after receiving opinions from their friends, proving that there can be a “network” effect on shopping decisions. The same study found that 62% of all online shoppers read product-related comments from friends on Facebook, with 75% of these clicking through to the retailer’s site.
The Pinterest Effect
By January 2012, comScore reported that Pinterest had 11.7 million unique visitors, making it the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark.
Pinterest set out to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” A lofty goal, but at its core, Pinterest promotes the social experience of discovering and sharing ideas. Pinterest was not the first to offer ‘pinning.’ But what Pinterest did well was make it simple, fun and social, with a consistent experience across Web and mobile. The model has been successful in building a large community – estimates are now at more than 20 million unique users each month.
Among online shoppers using Pinterest, 70% say they use it to get inspiration on what to buy – that compares with just 17% of Facebook users, according to a BizRate Insights survey conducted in August 2012. If a greater number of consumers are influenced to make purchases on Pinterest over Facebook, it becomes even more interesting to retailers.
Retailers are watching Pinterest’s growth with interest, not only because of its impressive growth, but also its relationship to consumer apparel and goods. But is its influence something retail can capture and capitalize on? Is it strong enough to drive shoppers into stores?
There have been some early success with brands on Pinterest – but the most successful (measured in terms of followers) are taking more than a traditional one-way “branding” approach to encourage re-pinning.
While there’s value in brand awareness, retailers are more interested in the influence that drives consumers into stores, a value directly proportionate to sales and revenues. Because the data around ROI for retail isn’t yet proven, many retailers are taking a “wait and see approach” to Pinterest.
Retailers Look Beyond Pinterest
Pinterest has proven it can build a large audience that wields a strong social influence, however, for retailers specifically, it was not built with the consumer-retail relationship in mind, lacking a few important things:
1. Pinterest is an online playground and wasn’t conceived as a tool for retailers. While Pinterest can spark imagination, inspiration, word of mouth and potentially purchases, it’s not a shopping marketplace.
2. Pinterest doesn’t help retailers create meaningful engagement with local communities of consumers or drive shopping traffic into the local retail store.
3. Pinterest’s focus is on “discovery” and not shopping. It wasn’t designed to track local sales, allow you to make shopping lists or interact with your friends about shopping in a meaningful way. Nor was it designed to follow the customer throughout the shopping journey — discovery, decision and execution.
It’s important for retailers to explore strategies around Facebook, Pinterest and other emerging social networks.