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A Healthy Dose of Pinterest Skepticism

3 Min Read
Abena Gyebi

With 2.2 million daily users, increasing 145% since the start of 2012, there’s no doubt Pinterest is the new it site of social media. Not surprisingly, retailers and their social-savvy marketers have been racing to find creative ways to capitalize on its rapidly rising popularity.

Pinterest’s value to brands is clear: when users “pin” photos to their boards, they expose it to their entire network of followers. Followers can then do the same, pinning that same photo to their own walls and showing them off to their own followers. Provided you’ve got a really cool product, the exposure possibilities are astounding, especially since more than 80% of pins are actually repins.

But having Pinterest exposure (or any exposure really) can’t automatically increase online revenue all on its own.

Let’s assume this best case scenario: yours is a company whose product is visual-based, whose target consumer overlaps with Pinterest’s consumer, and whose marketers do more than brand-plug. There are still some major hurdles before you can expect Pinterest to help bring in the big bucks.

It’s a social network, not a mall.
Pinterest has a unique DIY vibe, one that seems to rouse a sense of artistic resourcefulness among its users. It’s all about idea sharing, taking one person’s brilliant concept and customizing it to fit your own capabilities and needs. So users may discover products through Pinterest, but the very spirit of the site may inspire them to opt for more accessible alternatives.

What happens on Pinterest, stays on Pinterest.
Although Pinterest users spend a lot of time on the website and share tons of information, referral traffic to source websites is low. Tech Crunch reports only about a 3.6% referral rate, which is unexcitingly low compared to Facebook’s 26.4%. And though social media marketers have been working tirelessly to improve the referred traffic rate, the effort probably won’t have much of a boosting effect on revenue…not unless their home websites offer excellent user experience, as well.

Exposure ≠ sales.
Merchants have been putting too much effort into acquiring online shoppers, and not enough time converting them. A common misconception is that having lots of traffic will increase the number of sales and subsequently, revenue—after all, 2% of 1000 is a lot more than 2% of 100. But a better strategy is to win over some of the wayward, non-purchasing browsers by improving the quality of their user experience and by surpassing their customer service expectations. With a higher, UX-fueled conversion rate, companies could have more satisfied customers and therefore be in a better position to get higher yields from Pinterest’s word-of-mouth exposure.

Etsy-sized merchants get a pass here. They just need shoppers to know they exist. But larger brands, or brands that want to appear large, don’t have that excuse. Consumer expectations for ecommerce have been steadily climbing; shoppers will be more judgmental of larger brands who don’t have a well functioning website.

The alternative—Pinterest rock stardom without a UX-focused home website—is a lot like mall shopping on Christmas Eve. Imagine a store that has been so overrun with customers that the sales team is overwhelmed.  The floor is disarrayed, the associates are too swamped to offer reviews or comparative alternatives, the POS is lost in all the clutter, security seems off its guard.  Customers would probably leave in frustration, right? That’s how cut and dried ecommerce can be.  ecommerce websites must always employ excellent customer service, no matter how much traffic they get.   That requires excellent UX.  Neglecting this could mean missed sales or worse, damage to the company’s reputation as a secure and reliable place to shop.

In short, Pinterest can be a great tool for marketing and will continue to improve as such—no doubt about that. But there are other things online merchants should worry about first—namely, quality user experience on their ecommerce websites.

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CorraTech is now Corra!

Abena Gyebi

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Corra is the global digital agency that lifestyle brands trust to accelerate their growth. Working at the intersection of commerce technology and customer experience strategy, we deliver complex digital solutions to leading B2C and B2B retailers.

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