Practical Ecommerce

Reverse Showrooming: Pinterest Helps Brick-and-mortar Retailers

When consumers began using the sophisticated features of their smartphones to do price comparisons and make online purchases while browsing the aisles of stores, panic set in among brick-and-mortar retailers. It now appears that this practice— known as showrooming — might have been overstated. Moreover, it seems that social media, particularly Pinterest, is rescuing brick and mortar stores by motivating online shoppers to buy there.

Research and consulting firm Vision Critical conducted online interviews with social media users between February 2012 and June 2013 in the U.S, Canada, and the U.K. The results were published in a whitepaper entitled From Social to Sale.  Of the nearly 3,000 social media users in the three countries who gave information about their shopping habits, only 26 percent reported regularly engaging in showrooming. But 41 percent said they practiced reverse showrooming —browsing online and then purchasing in physical stores.

Social media drives roughly equal amounts of online and physical-store purchasing, according to Vision Critical, but different sites affect purchasing behavior in different ways. Facebook is the platform most likely to inspire a purchase, not surprising because 73 percent of the population use Facebook but only 15 percent use Pinterest.

Unique Pinterest Characteristics

Pinterest is the best venue for product discovery and unlike Facebook and Twitter, inspires substantial physical-store buying. It is the platform most likely to drive impulse purchases. Forty seven percent of Pinterest motivated purchasers stated that they “happened upon” an item they pinned and subsequently purchased without actively searching for it. “Facebook and Twitter inspired purchases are premeditated,” says Alexandra Samuel, vice president of social media at Vision Critical. “Pinterest users buy something they never intended to buy.” She adds that survey respondents said that Pinterest’s value is the amount of information provided, while on Facebook the value is finding a deal.

Vision Critical found that 50 percent of purchased items caught users’ attention while they were casually browsing Pinterest itself — 24 percent on a stranger’s boards, 19 percent on a friend’s, and only 7 percent on a retailer’s. Another 10 percent came from Pinterest searches.

According to survey results, consumers who get ideas from Pinterest are much more likely to buy food and beverages, art and craft objects, and decor items than people whose purchases are motivated by Facebook and Twitter, and much less likely to buy electronics — major categories for Twitter and Facebook. Pinterest users are overwhelmingly female — 83 percent, versus 57 percent for Facebook and 46 percent for Twitter, and most are between 35 and 54 years of age.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, where most of the brand engagement consists of company campaigns, individuals generate a majority (70 percent) of Pinterest brand engagement. With Pinterest, the community shares more personal experiences and opinions about brands so the user is getting objective information from other users rather than promotional information from the brands.

Pinterest operates as a catalog, created by social media conscious consumers, that allows people to look for product purchase ideas, mainly on a spontaneous basis. Samuel, who expressed surprise at the Pinterest survey results regarding reverse showrooming, says that “using Pinterest is like meandering through a mall curated by your friends” and individuals with similar interests.

Pinterest operates as a catalog, created by social media conscious consumers, that allows people to look for product purchase ideas, mainly on a spontaneous basis

Twenty one percent of Pinterest respondents had purchased an item in a physical store after pinning, repinning, or liking an item on Pinterest and of those, 36 percent of users said that the act of pinning greatly influenced their decision to purchase and 43 percent said it had influenced their decision somewhat.

Pinterest Users Not as Price Conscious

Twenty six percent of Pinterest users purchase in a specialty retailer versus nine and ten percent respectively for Facebook and Twitter after interacting with a product on the website. Pinterest users are also less likely to buy at a discount retailer after reviewing a product — 26 percent for Pinterest versus 43 percent for Facebook and 31 percent for Twitter. Individuals browsing Pinterest are clearly not looking for bargains.

Twenty four percent of respondents said that they make more purchases because of Pinterest versus 16 percent for Twitter and 11 percent for Facebook. Twenty eight percent said they make smarter purchases because of Pinterest while only 20 percent of Twitter users and 13 percent of Facebook users agree with that statement.

Pinterest offers a much more vibrant visual experience than Facebook and Twitter and may attract people who are more artistic and design oriented. Their visual proclivity may also motivate them to go into a physical store so they can see and touch the product.

Advice for Brick and Mortar Retailers

Samuel believes that brick-and-mortar stores are spending too many resources on combatting showrooming with practices such as price matching. Instead she suggests that retailers embrace the opportunity of reverse showrooming. In her view, retailers should spend resources on researching consumers’ paths to purchase via social media to learn how to increase store sales.

Marcia Kaplan
Marcia Kaplan
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