Guest author Charlotte Nichols is director of marketing at UGallery, a leading online art gallery.
Last year, online shopping brought in more than $225.5 billion—a 16% increase from 2011. And, earlier this year, 70% of more than 3,000 shoppers said that they prefer to shop their favorite retailer online. The digital buying experience is on its way to becoming the new norm.
But even as consumer preferences tilt towards e-commerce, the primary advantage held by brick-and-mortar retailers persists. Physical stores mean physical items. While we love to browse online, many still prefer to see some products “in person” before choosing to commit dollars to buy.
For e-tailers, this is an inherent disadvantage as our merchandise is viewed virtually, usually via imagery or video. Closing that gap, and bridging the divide between the physical and the digital to inspire buyer confidence means multiple touch points that imbue “tangibility.” The trick is to make a virtual item seem more physical.
Today, one of the most powerful tools for achieving digital-to-physical tangibility is Pinterest.
As a visual-first, image-oriented platform, Pinterest can make services and products offered online seem touchable in a way other social networks can’t. That’s why it is said Pinterest can drive more than 4 times as much revenue per click as Twitter and almost 30% more than Facebook. You can make the virtual “real.” But there’s more to it than just product pinning.
Here are 5 tips in using Pinterest to boost online sales.
As a marketing technique, guest pinning is recognized as a way to deliver access to a greater pool of potential, relevant customers. For e-commerce companies, guest pinners offer much more in the form of third-party validation from a known commodity. They humanize your offerings by anchoring them with a recognizable and familiar name. A guest pinner’s brand equity makes virtual products seem more concrete and touchable by virtue of association.
Similar to guest pinning, building “staff favorites” boards gives your followers and customers access to the personalities behind your company, humanizing your overall brand as well as the products and services showcased on the boards. This creates a cascade effect, making them more tangible to the consumer.
Zappos does this particularly well, drawing on what seems to be an army of merchandising assistants to curate boards and present personal favorites.
Take Advantage Of Captions
The rule of thumb is to keep Pinterest captions brief and let the images speak for themselves. Unfortunately for e-tailers, brevity can be a challenge, especially since detailed descriptions help make products more touchable, resulting in leads or sales.
I would also argue that being too brief and sacrificing a useful description weakens your pin’s sale opportunities. You’ll probably get a lot of re-pins, but the fact that you’re selling the service/item displayed gets lost. The key is to include straightforward captions with enough detail to build a complete view of the service/item in the mind of the consumer.
Gilt Groupe is a good example, with easy-to-read captions that also describe the product in a way that doesn’t undercut sales. JackThreads, on the other hand, is too focused on brevity. Without a description, items are too abstract.
Core to making a service or product touchable for an online audience is highlighting the offering’s utility and function. Showing how it can be used imbues it with tangibility that’s initially absent. Too often, site visitors are presented with products hovering in a white void, with no context for the value enabled by buying. Rather than using generic images that fail to offer any insight to a potential customer about how something can benefit them, you need to show your service/product in use.
Weddington Way, an online boutique for bridesmaid dresses, is a great example, pinning images of bridesmaids wearing their products on the big day. The focus is on the end result (the benefit)—and it’s a more powerful presentation than just the product.
Pin Like A Person
Making your products touchable starts with your brand. Guest pinners and staff favorites boards both lend personality and character, but you can carry this further by broadening your pins to capture brand-relevant content beyond your own products and services.
Look at Warby Parker—though they’re a glasses e-tailer (mainly), their boards are largely a collection of non-Warby Parker content that simply speaks to their brand. They’re pinning like a person—not like a company intent on selling something—which not only humanizes their pins, but makes their own products seem more real and relatable. It makes you want to buy right from the page.