Advancing the integration of digital discovery into the mainstream retail experience

Advancing the integration of digital discovery into the mainstream retail experience Amy Vener leads Pinterest's retail strategy and helps partners understand how to best use the Pinterest platform to achieve a competitive advantage within their industry. She works across our product and marketing organizations to have a holistic view on how Pinterest can best meet the needs of retailers. Before joining Pinterest, Amy's career was built on the foundation of data driven marketing and measurement programs across publisher (Y! and newspaper world), retailer (Walmart merchandising and marketing) and marketing technology partner (Adobe, Acxiom, Personify).

As another busy summer winds down, retailers are preparing for those consumers that hit reset on certain aspects of their life by making thoughtful changes to their routines. People often think of this particular time of the year as going ‘Back to Life’ and an ideal time for starting fresh habits and making new purchasing decisions. It’s also a mindset that retailers can leverage beyond the usual back to school push.

We continue to see the gap between online and offline shopping close as more savvy consumers blend both experiences. This is supported by a recent ‘Back to Life’ survey commissioned by Pinterest in the UK, which found that Brits who shop in-store (34%) is near to the percentage of those who shop online (29%). As consumers increasingly become multi-channel shoppers across mobile, desktop and in-store experiences, retailers have the opportunity to advance their brand’s discoverability and consumer engagement.

The realities of ‘Back to Life’ ring true to me and my family’s life, marking a key seasonal moment for retailers to put inspiring ideas into my head and heart. While this time of year is often overlooked by retailers, there are those that capture my aspirations and create the feeling of ‘I need it’ for consumers like me.

By providing the right ideas and products for my needs at this moment in time, retailers help me realise an even better version of myself. Last week was particularly telling, as my family prepared to help my son enter the 2nd grade. I found myself rethinking all the changes I wanted to make for myself and the family in the new school year. Things like workout schedules and the accompanying new shoes and sports bras I would need. The new shoes and backpack he needed, to be the kid that went back to school feeling excited and confident. Even the new sheets we all needed to ensure we were set up to get the sleep required to be our best selves. It’s an especially active time for people with children that are going back to school, and like me, want to be smart about the purchase decisions we research digitally and commit to making – regardless of the actual purchase channel.

This mindful approach reflects recent research by PwC, which suggests that less than half of customers are satisfied with their in-store experience and although the brick-and-mortar model is prevalent and resilient, it is vulnerable. Even when shops have been quick to adopt technology, they can get it wrong. Therefore, it’s important for retailers to understand shopper motivations and the need to give them a more visually inspiring, convenient way to shop as online purchasing and digital discovery continues to gain momentum.

Being discoverable early in the consumer’s journey helps people become inspired by new ideas that include your brand and products, and often results in a more committed and less price sensitive buyer. Mobile shopping can be as inspiring as walking through a personally merchandised store. The key is to seed the right ideas at the perfect time in someone’s life.

Evolving technology such as visual search has recently been implemented by mainstream retailers including ASOS and H&M, showcasing the move towards a focus on visual elements and imagery within searching to open up a wide range of related results to buyers, allowing consumers to take the offline online and embark on a digital journey to find exactly what they’re looking for.

Whilst visual search is still in the early stages, this is a prime example of a method retailers can use to more effectively integrate digital discovery in to the shopping experience. The emergence of visual search and discovery technology helps connect people to new ideas even if they don’t have the right words to describe them. This technology powers everything on Pinterest, from the content recommendations to the way we serve ads and it delivers unique marketing solutions for businesses. Unlike text or voice, visual search sits squarely in the native shopping environment, encouraging consumers to consider new possibilities in their life.

When shopping for a new need in life, consumers are looking for brands to help them decide what is best for them. Consumers value brands that offer relevant ideas and inspiration around the moments they are planning against, when they haven’t yet decided which direction to take. This offers businesses who are digitally discoverable the opportunity to place products in front of potential buyers at a time when they’re more open to possibilities and alternative brands they may not yet have considered, ultimately driving purchases and profits.

Giving consumers an inspiring shopping experience while subsequently providing retailers with ways to reach their target audience with high impact is a priority at Pinterest. The platform enables discoverability by showcasing personally relevant brands and products that the consumer may not have previously considered.

Further, people on Pinterest are serious planners. They tend to start researching twice as early on Pinterest than on other platforms, because Pinterest provides ideas before people decided where to shop and what to buy. For instance, consumers are currently in the ‘Back to Life’ stage.  Pinterest conducted this nationwide survey in the UK to find out how people think of this particular time of year for making small changes to their routines.

When questioned on what changes they would like to make to their lifestyle during the end of August/early September, the most popular option amongst Brits was exercising more (38%), followed by travelling (21%), trying new recipes (20%) or making a small change to personal style (18%). These trends and consumer shopping habits are all moments in time that retailers can make their products – and the ideas they represent – discoverable on Pinterest.

Last year online sales grew by 15% in Europe and North America and a similar increase is expected this year, according to the BBC. The increased focus on the digital shopping experience means brands have fewer opportunities to meet their customers face-to-face and should seek out new ways of reaching them.

Whilst a complicated picture, it’s important to think of retail in the future as an amalgamation of online shopping and physical stores, where customers can easily move between the two, as it suits them. Personalised interaction with customers such as intuitive apps, immersive experiences and recommendations based on previous searches will ultimately be the key ingredient for success.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about the Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) international event series, arriving in Amsterdam from September 19-20 and New York from November 7-8.

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