By: Trent Howe on 08-07-2015 in Marketing News, Online Marketing, Pinterest, Social Media, Technology

Late last month Pinterest introduced a ‘buy it’ button to its visual discovery platform. While this decision sees Pinterest following in the footsteps of Facebook and Google by monetising its social platform, experts like Adam Forrest from Demandware believe the introduction of buy buttons could give Pinterest a competitive advantage over its more popular competitors.

Pinterest buy button


“On Pinterest, users can find items based on their interest, collect the products and then purchase them directly from a brand. The platform is more about the shopper while other social media networks are less about the individual,” says Forrest.

The purchase process can now be controlled by Pinterest, allowing users to purchase within the platform without having to visit a third party site. This is good news for retailers who have been using Pinterest for many years to generate huge referral traffic to their website, as Benjamin Spiegel’s chart highlights. The chart show pages per visit across a broad variety of brands.

Pinterest Referral Traffic

A recent study by Pinterest experts Ahalogy found that 83% of active Pinterest users are more likely to engage with a brand than with a notable celebrity. This should come as no surprise to users as Pinterest is a social media platform that allows brands to tell a story and showcase their personality to consumers without getting lost in the digital confusion of a congested news feed like Facebook and Twitter.

It’s All About Advertising

Instagram on June 3rd announced a suite of new call to action buttons ranging from “shop now” to “sign up”. This announcement has given momentum to their fledgling ad platform, as it will allow consumers inspired by the content on Instagram to take action.

In the middle of 2012 social media giant Facebook purchased Instagram for a cool $1 billion, a company that had yet to make a profit but had an impressive 27 million registered users. Looking back it becomes increasingly obvious that Mark Zuckerberg always had big plans to turn Instagram into a profit making machine. Instagram’s global head of business, Jason Quarles told Adweek how Facebook’s online advertising expertise has helped Instagram transform its mobile platform.

“We have benefitted greatly from being a part of Facebook,” Quarles said. “It would have taken us years to build this tech stack for ourselves. So, we’re fortunate to be able to take select pieces of Facebook’s tech stack,” says Quarles.

Google As Middleman

Google’s decision to add buy buttons to their shopping ads is the least surprising of all. However, unlike Instagram, in Google’s case the search engine becomes the middle-man in the purchase process, as users are taken to a separate landing page to input their choices regarding size, colour, style etc.

Google’s decision to not pass on payment details to the retailer might cause a major problem in the adoption of their new service, as brands might prefer to control the consumer purchase process themselves. But like most of Google’s decisions, adding a buy button could have just as much to do with beefing up Google’s own offerings – as well as expanding their data on our buying behaviour – as it does with improving user experience. Furthermore, it would not come as a surprise to see Google’s payment system ‘Google Wallet’ as the primary payment option offered in the checkout process.

It’s easy to take the cynic’s stand on Google’s decision to control the payment process, but as Jerry Dischler VP of Google Adwords has said Google isn’t trying to replace retailers, but rather improve mobile conversions. Jerry Dischler explained to Search Engine Land:

“Jerry explained that Google has information about their searchers that can help speed up and improve the ability for mobile users to convert and place a transaction online. It is because of this that they are working on a buy now button, specifically around mobile search ads.”

Implications for Users & Marketers

At first the idea that your favourite social media channels are coming after your wallet may leave you feeling a touch unsettled, but the reality is that it could be a good thing for users; only time will tell.

Marketers on the other hand will be ecstatic with these announcements, as the upgrades will allow them to shorten the buying process and take advantage of consumer’s spontaneous buying decisions. The broader challenge for marketers moving forward is to avoid the common mistake of treating all of these channels as part of a broad ‘social media’ umbrella. After all, you wouldn’t use the same marketing strategy for television that you would for radio, would you?

Like TV and radio, social media platforms come with their own unique qualities, and respecting these differences by tailoring unique strategies for each will be the key to marketers succeeding in the new ‘buy it’ paradigm.