With its endless barrage of images and curated theme boards, Pinterest might appear to be an ideal platform for fashion marketers.
But analysts said there is still ways to go before fashion brands will view Pinterest as a viable marketing tool for fashion brands, despite its recent addition of an updated buy button that incorporates Apple Pay and enhanced visual search tools. Though fashion remains the top category on Pinterest — the platform claims an estimated 55 percent of users use it to shop — it remains to be seen if these latest efforts will take in the fashion realm.
The biggest challenge is that Pinterest often serves as the middleman between shoppers and brand websites, rather than being perceived as a purchasing destination, said Sucharita Mulpuru, principal analyst for Forrester.
“All of the data over the years has suggested that people like to use Pinterest to discover new products and decide on things to buy,” Mulpuru said “The issue is that that Pinterest doesn’t always capture the sale. It doesn’t get credit for its role in the shopping ecosystem.”
Mulpuru said a reason consumers aren’t choosing Pinterest to shop is because the platform typically lacks critical information, including sizing charts and reviews. Elizabeth Arden even stopped using the platform completely in August 2015 due to low engagement. Steven Kolb, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, told the Glossy podcast this week that Pinterest has “just never resonated” for him.
Piquing interest vs. driving sales
And yet, according to Rachel Goodman, partner manager at Pinterest who works directly with luxury brands, three out of four Pinterest users are engaging with fashion-related content, and the new offerings will make it easier for them to obtain items of interest.
What sets Pinterest apart, she said, is that unlike Instagram and Facebook, which foster dialogue among users and promote commenting, it allows brands to unabashedly share promoted content.
“This is an environment where you can very much be branded,” Goodman said. “It’s a very native place for that content to live.”
Still, many brands in general have yet to join Pinterest. In a January report, Forrester analyst Nate Elliot wrote that only half of top brands across all categories have branded Pinterest boards, and that “those that do are unsure what to post, collect few followers, and see little user interaction.”
Goodman maintained that followers aren’t an indication of engagement on the platform, and said designers are drawn to the ability to essentially create a digital look book directly on the site. She said this is particularly valuable during global fashion week events, when designers often share boards of images from shows and fashion lines.
Companies like Marc Jacobs, for example, include boards titled “Campaigns” and “Runway,” where users can browse images from specific shows. Other brands like Kate Spade and Madewell use Pinterest to share style inspiration tied to holidays or special events.
“Designers are innately very attracted to Pinterest,” Goodman said. “It’s essentially like a magazine and it allows them to curate in a certain way. They use it to curate look books and share street style imagery, influencer imagery, design inspiration, and ways to wear a product.
In addition to ease of sharing products and campaigns, Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee, a visual marketing platform for brands, noted that Pinterest allows fashion brands to share images with more longevity and visibility than on Instagram, where photos eventually get buried.
“There’s a long half-life to the content that is created on Pinterest compared to other social media platforms, and a lot of it is because of its ability to have tagged and structured photos,” Wong said.
Consumers’ penchant for limitless browsing doesn’t mean they don’t intend to purchase as well, Goodman said. To a certain extent, the Pinterest buy button may increase impulse purchases.
This may be because users view Pins as “digital mannequins,” Wong said, making the buy button appealing when scouting new looks on the site. This is especially helpful for a platform that features more than 10 million products, 75 percent of which are shared directly from brands themselves, according to Pinterest.
“When it comes to in-store retail shopping, it’s proven that mannequins help sell-through because they help showcase how to wear a product,” Wong said. “What’s unique about Pinterest is that it brings that same kind of benefit to the online digital experience.”
‘It’s getting there’
Mulpuru echoed Goodman, noting that Pinterest acts like a digital magazine for brands, establishing clout in building brand awareness.
“I don’t deny that Pinterest can be a huge force in commerce; it’s not there yet,” she said. “I don’t think this iteration is going to be the game changer, but they’re committed to ecommerce and they’re moving in the right direction.”
In addition to the new buy button, Pinterest has also announced new product search tools like automatic object detection for iOS that allows users to find unmarked products in a Pin image.
The company is also previewing a new camera search technology that will allow users to identify products they find offline. In theory, this will allow a shopper to take a photo of a garment they see on the street and send it into the platform to identify the brand and style, or suggest similar models.
“It makes for a more seamless shopping experience,” Goodman said. “It’s another touch point and another way for brands to reach consumers and help them discover their products.”