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Why retailers should pay attention to Pinterest's vision for online shopping

Mar 19, 2021

Pinterest hosted an online event called Pinterest Presents to share its vision for the future. How it differs from other social media platforms. Pinterest wanted to share a different vision for a more inspired internet. Where the best of offline shopping comes online. Where conversions matter more than likes. A place that’s positive—for people and for your bottom line.

In this article, I'll try to read between the lines. Refrain from getting distracted by the impressive framing and the awesome storytelling during the event, and cut to chase to see what they're actually on about.

In short, Pinterest is a social network where people can find inspiration and ideas for their interests and hobbies. Pins can also link back to websites, which is why Pinterest is great for driving traffic and sales. And the driving traffic and sales is also why Pinterest is interesting for retailers around the world.

Looking at the mindset of a Pinterest user exploring the platform, it makes a lot of sense for retailers to use Pinterest to attract shoppers. 47% of the users on Pinterest are shopping for products. On Facebook that number is only 15%. This should tell you two things...

One, you need to spend money on advertising on Pinterest if you're in retail. Two, Pinterest has shown you're able to create an online environment people actually want to visit to explore products to buy - you can too.

Why is Pinterest a different social media and how does it impact retail?

In one word: positivity.

In a few more words, Pinterest has a very clear policy on the feeling a user must be left with after interacting with the platform. It wants to be a positive platform, where not all opinions matter. It wants to be a part of the internet that's regulated to kill negativity. 

And while that sounds very ideological, it can also be translated into a business case that makes sense. A report made by Morning Consult and Pinterest has shown that positivity pays off for brands and retailers if they want to be remembered, and in the end, sell more products.

6 out of 10 respondents claimed in the survey that they:

  • Remember brands they encounter online when feeling positive
  • Feel positive towards brands they encounter in positive environments
  • Trust brands that they see in a positive space
  • Purchase from a brand when they see it in a positive space

With this logic, Pinterest has the arguments to drive more ad revenue towards it with the claim that 9 in 10 Pinterest users consider Pinterest an online oasis.

And while this is great news for Pinterest, and its ability to scale its business, retailers should also look towards what Pinterest is actually facilitating in its platform.

Why retailers should pay attention to Pinterests vision for online shopping

A trending topic in retail is that the competitive edge cannot be your ability to convert buyers that know what they want. Retailers need to be able to inspire more shoppers to visit their stores and online platforms if they want to win market shares.

That's a topic Pinterest wants to connect its overall story to. 

As shopping has moved online, something has been lost from the experience. It's point and click and add to cart. As shoppers, we want so much more. We want to browse and discover, not just buy."

- Dan Lurie, Head of Growth and Shopping Product at Pinterest

But it's not just Pinterest that has seen this as a make or break factor in future retail. JYSK, a Danish retail chain selling household goods has historically been extremely focused on price and offers - it's been their brand identity. 

JYSK recently presented a new strategy and a lot of what they've shared with the world is addressing the same story that Pinterest has put forward. The competitive edge in retail is not your ability to optimize converting customers who know what they want - Amazon will probably beat you on those KPIs. It's the ability to create an experience that inspires shoppers to take action, and make them actually want to visit your stores. This is what will drive growth.

What online retailers should learn from Pinterest

What Pinterest has shared at Pinterest Presents, and JYSK is voicing in its strategy, is looking at the future of retail through the eyes of shoppers. And as Pinterest is stating it, shoppers don't just want to buy, they want to discover and browse.

If retailers acknowledge that their ability to drive inspiration and attract shoppers who want to explore is make or break, they should look towards the platform that already lives to inspire people. And in short, online retailers should focus a lot more on taking back ownership of the inspirational part of shopping.

While it's great that retailers have a shared place to try and inspire shoppers to take action, Pinterest is a channel they can't control, let alone scale, without buying ads or influencers.

Why don't online stores have their own user generated stories of happy customers using their products? Why don't they focus on creating a store environment that sparks interest, and fuels the visitor with dreams of how their products can make their lives just a bit better?

Is it because online retailers are obsessed with looking at KPIs related to the actual transaction, that they forget the steps leading up to it? Is it because inspiration and shopper experience are too fluffy terms to work with? It's probably both.

But the harsh reality is that all online stores look the same, and have the exact same user experience. Online stores more resemble beautifully designed warehouses rather than a store environment you want to explore. It’s all about product categories, search, recommendations and filters.  

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Online retailers have long been too focused on algorithms, convenience and product grids. Where's the equivalent of placing a large pirate ship in a physical store to attract visitors in online retail? 

So, instead of focusing all your resources on how to increase conversion rate, ask yourself and your team the question "how do we make sure people want to visit our online store to shop around?".

Pinterest has shown you that it is in fact possible to attract shoppers who want to explore products. Use this as motivation to create a better shopping experience for your shoppers just waiting to get amazed by your ability to build an online store they want to visit over and over again.

Jesper Wilhelmsen

Jesper Wilhelmsen