Pinterest Attracts Followers and Purchases Follow

Jun 04, 2012

According to a new study, U.S. online consumers follow an average of 9.3 retailers on the Pinterest image-sharing social network compared to 6.9 retailers on Facebook and 8.5 via Twitter.

Overall, the 2012 Social and Mobile Commerce Study, a joint research project by, comScore and The Partnering Group, found that almost two out of five (38 percent) online consumers follow retailers through one or more social networking sites.

"Pinterest has given retailers another channel to ‘listen’ to and interact with both existing and new customers, telling an ongoing visual story through images of their products and their brand ‘spirit’ — a story that customers can then tell again to their friends and family members," said Vicki Cantrell, executive director at

Another survey supporting Pinterest from the behavioral commerce company SteelHouse found that Pinterest users are 79 percent more likely to purchase items they saw pinned on Pinterest versus Facebook users. Thirty-three percent of Facebook users said they have purchased a product or service they’ve seen in a Facebook ad, on the news feed, or on a friend’s wall, in comparison to the 59 percent of Pinterest users who have made a purchase based on an item they saw on Pinterest.

However, the SteelHouse survey found that Facebook remains consumers’ top choice for getting ideas on what products and/or services to purchase and is also the preferred choice for social product sharing. More than one half of those surveyed said they regularly share their online purchases. Fifty-five percent of shoppers prefer to share their purchases on Facebook, followed by Twitter (22 percent), Pinterest (14 percent), and Instagram (five percent).

Self described as a "virtual pinboard," Pinterest, launched in 2010, is a content-sharing service that allows members to "pin" images, videos and other objects to their pinboard. The images can be linked to articles or web content.

The following of retailers and subsequent purchasing has apparently brought back the old debate around the value of visual (Pinterest and Instagram) versus the literary (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with respect to the social world. Critics and Facebook fans see Pinterest lacking the conversations that build true customer relationships.

Speaking to Forbes, however, N. Venkat Venkatraman, a business professor at Boston University, pointed to the irony that "photographs of products pinned and liked and shared can be more readily connected with offers from companies than text conversations on Facebook."

Discussion Questions: What do you make of Pinterest’s early success in driving retail purchases? What’s your overall take on the retail value of visual-driven social networks (Pinterest, Instagram) versus conversation-driven ones (Facebook, Twitter)?

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15 Comments on "Pinterest Attracts Followers and Purchases Follow"

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Ken Lonyai

Before anyone writes off FB and figures that Pinterest has figured out the secret sauce, remember, it’s still early on and there may be a novelty aspect that may wear off. Still, no one would call FB’s interface the most engaging, so there is a lot to be said for nice imagery as a selling tool: a thousand words I think…

Feeling good about what you want to buy is an important aspect to closing a sale. It’s going to be different for everyone — for some, friend’s comments; for others, beautiful images; and in the future, a hybrid from some yet undiscovered player?

Max Goldberg

In order to be successful for retailers, social sites need to enable consumers to make immediate purchases without leaving the site. This is easier said than done.

Different websites can be used in different ways by retailers. Sites like Pinterest, with its emphasis on visuals, can showcase products better than Twitter. But Twitter can deliver a quick, easy to use promotional message to consumers, designed to spur immediate action.

Marketers need to be experimenting with all of these social sites. Different types of communication and offers can be tested for relatively little expense, and the results need to be carefully tracked.

gordon arnold
When I was first introduced to advertising, the entire content of the course focused on the power of pictures and colors as a means of communicating successfully. “Everybody looks at the pictures” was our professors message to the student wishing to be a success in the advertising industry. As I witnessed the evolution of personal computing, to my recollection the most significant developments making computers truly user friendly was Xerox’s graphic users interface and HP’s touch screen technology. In recent years the development and eventual integration of voice recognition software, system narrators and language translators will be the next giant leap. It is simply a fact that people would watch a movie rather than read the book for many reasons, with the number one reason being their poor reading skills. And if you were to ask a system support team what is the most predominant error type in the IT industry you would get “cockpit error” as the cause for about 80% issues reported. A follow up as to why these errors occur and reoccur would discover that the user assumed something and/or simply did not follow written instructions. As a means of expanding sales the Facebook and Twitter platforms… Read more »
Charles P. Walsh
Charles P. Walsh
5 years 23 days ago

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Pinterest’s advantage, as an easily accessed and ever changing bulletin board, is that it becomes an interactive destination site where (potential) consumers both share and look for interesting topics, products and product decor ideas.

Destination sites increase the likelihood of the potential consumer activating purchases via the site.

As has been mentioned many times, targeted selling to that consumers interest, is the key to Pinterest’s (and other visual-driven social networks) ability to gain market share over the conversation-driven sites.

Fabien Tiburce
Fabien Tiburce
5 years 23 days ago

I don’t think the differentiation that matters is visual vs conversation. The real differentiation is interest-graph vs social graph. Interest-graph wins. Being visual sure helps too. Having a friend doesn’t mean you share their hobbies or style. Having the same interest as somebody else on the other hand makes it much more likely you’ll purchase what they do. Pinterest has capitalized on the interest-graph craving and social network fatigue. They’ll do fine until marketers use and abuse it and users flock elsewhere….

Ben Ball

What is the universe of “online consumers”? How is it defined and how big is it?

These “percents of percents” always raise red flags in my mind. Perhaps too many misspent years as a CPG marketer, I guess.

That’s not to question that social media has become the new “word of mouth” that we all seek as the Holy Grail of product endorsement. And the explosive reach of viral communication gives it that much more importance.

But I do question whether that same facility that multiplies the message doesn’t also dilute the impact. It’s just too easy for me to get “online endorsements” and I get far too many of them every day for them to carry the same weight as a face to face conversation with my local wine merchant or mechanic.

Art Williams
Art Williams
5 years 23 days ago

When it comes to marketing things, pictures have always had an edge over the printed word. As an example, eBay sellers who do not post a picture of their products are at a significant disadvantage. How all this will play out is anybody’s guess at this point, but visual selling versus text or conversation would seem to have the stronger tools to work with.

Paula Rosenblum

Quite a few people I know prefer Pinterest because of the way you can organize things that you like. It becomes like a virtual closet. And I suppose it’s easy to say “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

But I think the future lies in a combination of both. Of course there’s a novelty aspect. What we need is words and pictures both.

Craig Sundstrom

Pretty much what Ben said: I’d be wary of any “study” conducted by a for-profit organization that seems to be promoting something, no matter how much it assures us “participants were selected to ensure that results were representative of the demographics of the U.S. online adult consumer.” As for social networks in general, I think their “retail value” is small.

Carlos Arambula

Pinterest has the ability to delivery the user to an address with a recommendation, it is a virtual storefront, I expect success to continue as more consumers become familiar with it.

Visual and conversation driven social sites are not an “or” choice, they are complementary of each other and of other traditional media as part of the media mix of retail marketing plan.

Martin Mehalchin

Questions about the objectivity of the survey aside, I do think the web is clearly getting more visual. Tumblr and Instagram were other examples that rose to prominence before Pintrest did. Pintrest is the first one that seems to be built from the ground up (business model, layout etc.) to drive commerce and the uptake among retailers has been quite rapid. Really interesting early case studies include banners such as Sephora and Kirkland’s.

Roger Saunders

Pinterest holds great appeal to consumers with a strong creative streak. Those folks have an ability to visually see things that many of the rest of us simply miss.

By calling out their postings, those creatives showcase their talents. In the process, those of us who need a more complete description of the idea/concept can more quickly grasp it.

It’s taking print vehicles from black and white to color, shifting to hi-def television, making certain the website is easy to navigate for the end user, etc. The concept grows because it makes the medium more interesting and user-friendly. Smart retailers are, justifiably, familiarizing themselves with this social network in quick fashion.

Ralph Jacobson

As major retailers and manufacturers pull their advertising from certain social channels, while others migrate to additional channels, I continue to believe that the dust is far from settling with the channels, and brands need to continually flex their efforts as channels growth and shrink in their impact.

Larry Negrich

There will be more. Smart retailers (and their solution infrastructure) will need to be flexible to take advantage of the trends and developments while the consumers sort out the ultimate winners and losers of social networks. Pinterest, or something that looks like it, will certainly be one of the winners when it comes to driving retail sales.

Matthew Keylock
Matthew Keylock
5 years 22 days ago

All this is highlighting the need to have a measurement solution that links exposure to sales and to longer-term loyalty (to understand the “brand” effect too).


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