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Three Ways Pinterest ‘Pins’ Illustrate Omnichannel Disruption


Pinterest is rolling out its “Buyable Pins” feature, which allow consumers to purchase items directly from Pinterest visual displays, to users of its iPhone and iPad apps. This gives retailers a new avenue to engage digital consumers, while e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, Google and even Wal-Mart Marketplace have a new competitor.

I’m usually skeptical of any one development signaling a radical change in how retailing is performed. But I think the pins actually do illustrate the evolutionary path of omnichannel retail disruption. It’s not so much that the pins themselves will alter how products will be bought and sold across channels, but that their underlying strategy is a sign of the times.

Here are three ways the pins illustrate the direction in which omnichannel commerce is evolving:

The Eyes Have It

Pinterest is an inherently visual medium. The social network refers to pins as “visual bookmarks,” and the typical Pinterest board contains a minimum amount of written information and a maximum amount of visual information.

Retailers have long been attempting to make the digital customer experience more visual with virtual fitting rooms, drill-down product images, demonstration videos, and other features that show, rather than tell, customers how products look and feel.

Buyable Pins, which turn photos into mobile (and eventually desktop) checkout tools, are the next logical step in the evolution of omnichannel commerce to a primarily visual enterprise.

In the Pinterest model, photos and videos don’t enhance the consumer experience, they ARE the consumer experience. An increasing number of retailers’ e-commerce sites already show the impact of Pinterest’s visual orientation, and this trend will only accelerate.

Everything in Context

By presenting products as part of broader themed collections (such as items for your next beach vacation, dishes for a great dinner party, etc.), Pinterest has perfected the art of merchandising in context. This approach better fits the mindset of most consumers, who rarely buy a single product in a vacuum.

Far beyond offering a targeted cross-sell offer for a matching pair of pants when a customer selects a shirt, retailers on Pinterest can present a shirt as part of a holistic ensemble including pants, shoes and accessories.

Also, the themed displays show the consumer how an item fits into certain life activities, which can prompt further purchases. For example, a shirt that looks good in the office may not look so good in a nightclub, necessitating the purchase of a second shirt. Look for more retailers to start visually presenting products within a broader context of the customer’s life.

Recommended by a Friend

While retailers do have their own Pinterest pages and consumers can search the site by retailer, Pinterest content mostly consists of individual users posting “pins” of products they like. The consumers themselves curate collections of items in “real life” contexts (as explained above) which a professional marketer may never even think of.

And of course, a recommendation from a friend, relative or even celebrity carries more weight with the average consumer than a recommendation from a retailer or brand. Buyable Pins let your customers do the marketing and even merchandising, an omnichannel strategy that is already gaining popularity beyond Pinterest.

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