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How Pinterest is flipping the merchandising model for mobile retailers

Pinterest is drastically shaking up mobile retail

Pinterest is one of the major social media sites responsible for driving significant sales for online retailers and more brands need to take notice and merchandise their mobile sites and applications to drive stronger traffic and ROI.

According to some mobile experts, social media needs to be viewed as a comprehensive part of a retailers’ mobile strategy.

“When social is implemented as part of a comprehensive mobile strategy, it can become a powerful mechanism for marketers to amplify their merchandising initiatives,” said Carin Van Vuuren, chief marketing officer of Usablenet, New York.

“By leveraging a customer’s ability to easily share products, reviews, promotions and other content over social channels, businesses can engage with a much larger audience and maximize their reach. In essence, social media creates a multiplier effect to enhance a brand’s message over the mobile channel,” she said.

Social driver
Traditionally, retailers have merchandised mobile sites and apps based on what products are newest or most in season.

However, a recent study from comScore found that Pinterest is leading the pack as the fastest-growing social media site with a year-over-year growth of more than 4377 percent, showing how consumers are sometimes more in control of purchasing power than many brands.

The same study predicts that users who accessed the Web via mobile will surpass desktop users by 2014. With Pinterest’s emphasis on users sharing content via the mobile Web, the study points to the opportunities that retailers have to equip their mobile services with social media.

Mobile retailers also need to think about how their content will be shared, whether it is through links or social sharing buttons.

Although Pinterest undoubtedly plays a big role for retailers, other social media sites are also important for retailers and brands, based on a company’s goals.

“At a high level, social media appeals to businesses that want to increase their brand awareness. However, which platform a business chooses to promote depends on what they believe will have the greatest reach based on their audience,” Ms. Van Vuuren said.

“And as social sharing continues to increase in popularity, we are experiencing a notable shift on the mobile channel. Instead of driving traffic that originates on their social platforms to mobile, brands are now viewing mobile as a starting point in the customer journey and are integrating social as part of the holistic user experience,” she said.

Build on data
Incorporating social media goes beyond a basic “Like” with data at the core, say some.

Consumers are now major forces of deciding what others buy by sharing content across multiple devices.

Social media also needs to be viewed as part of a broader, multichannel marketing strategy, according to Craig Davis, CEO/founder of Relevvant, San Francisco.

“A range of factors, data and channels are now instrumental in the purchasing channel. We are looking to our friends, family and even complete strangers to recommend, guide and influence every product purchase we make,” Mr. Davis said.

“Further, with easier access to brand content on our mobile phones, consumers are constantly looking at product reviews, social recommendations, videos, images and user generated content – merchandising has become more personal than ever before,” he said.

Taking a broader picture look at how consumers interact with a brand could lead to more personalized shopping experiences. For example, if a retailer had access to a consumer’s social media graph, then the home page of a mobile site or app could be personalized to show only products that a consumer has indicated that they are interested in.

Not only would consumers want to shop from a retailer with a more personalized experience, basket sizes would also likely increase as consumers find new products.

Time is always top-of-mind for mobile marketers, but social media adds an additional real-time element to consumers looking for information, recommendations and products while on their devices.

“Mobile shoppers want to be able to find what they are looking for, share it with their friends and purchase it quickly and easily – often in 60 seconds or less,” said Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing at Digby, Austin, TX.

“Enabling social sharing on product pages allows retailers to see which products are most popular on mobile and then merchandise accordingly. Social media creates a two-way conversation between the consumer and the brand. Paying attention to social media channels lets retailers see which products are shared most often and receive the highest response. Retailers can also see what their most loyal – and disloyal – shoppers are saying about their brand and see where they are successful and where they need to improve,” he said.

Social commerce
Peter DiBart, regional vice president for Metia, New York, believes that social media needs to have a commerce-first approach.

Additionally, any content that a brand distributes can be seen as potentially leading to commerce, showing how social media has the ability to drive more than just online traffic.

“Every social experience can be transactional. Every transaction can be a social experience,” Mr. DiBart said.

“There’s an increasing number of people who are engaging with social media on their mobile devices, and the percentage of people being referred to mobile retail sites from social networks is on the rise. Your site must be mobile-friendly if you want to capture a socialized audience. The objective of a retailer should be to make it easy to discover and share product information – social and mobile are equally important,” he said.

“By consuming brand content, your audience is contributing to the merchandising of your product. Marketers are no longer promoting a brand’s salable attributes – they are creating full content and experience ecosystems around brands for audiences to consume.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York