Daily Dose of iQ: Pinterest Not Converting Sales, Just Interest

Jul 13, 2012 — Allan Pulga

A couple months ago, we blogged about Pinterest's ability to generate the highest average order price, when compared to other social networks and search engines. Even then, it didn't feel like the numbers told the whole story.

Today, J.J. Colao of Forbes wrote that, according to e-commerce analytics company Jirafe, Pinterest is actually much less effective at driving purchases than its social and search counterparts. And Pinterest was lowest among all tools in average order size. Hmm.

Here are Jirafe's numbers:

Conversion rates:
Bing:           1.3%
Google:       0.9%
Facebook:   0.3%
Twitter:       0.2%
Pinterest:    0.1%

Average Order Size:
Twitter:       5.3x
Google:       3.45x
Facebook:   2.5x
Bing:            2.1x
Pinterest:     1x

"Jirafe's findings fly directly in the face of growing conventional wisdom that Pinterest is a force to be reckoned with in the e-commerce space," Colao writes. "The social network has grown to a user base of 20 million in the last year and recently raised $100 million at a $1.5 billion valuation from the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in May."

In our previous blog post about about Pinterest's e-commerce potential, we noted that Pinterest users are in more of a shopping mindset than, say,  Facebook users, whose motivation is to socialize. Jirafe's numbers contradict that assumption.

An analogy that comes to mind is when people say, "Facebook is for your actual friends. Twitter is for the friends you wish you had." According to Jirafe, "Bing and Google (the legitimate search engines) are where you go to actually start the purchase process. Pinterest is where you find the things you wish you could buy."

It also calls into question Jirafe's statistical viability. How do they differentiate a conversion from Pinterest vs. Bing/Google? What if you see something you like on Pinterest and then go to your search engine to look it up and then buy, which is presumably what most people do, particularly since not every retailer already has e-commerce integration with Pinterest. These conversion stats will also change as more and more companies improve their e-commerce offerings via Pinterest.

One thing my colleagues and I did notice, Pinterest aside, is that Bing surprisingly outdid Google in conversion rate. Why?

We tried out a simple search using the words "buy black dress" to see how the two search engines' results differed.

These are Bing's results:

And here are Google's:

Immediately, you see how the word "buy" jumps off the Bing search results. This leads us to believe Bing is more e-commerce sales conversion oriented, whereas Google is more discovery oriented. Makes sense because Google does not make revenue from e-commerce per se (not that Bing necessarily does) -- its revenue model is based on getting people to click through to more stuff, so Google can cash in on additional profit via AdWords campaigns. The money is in the search itself.

The take-away for retailers: Don't put all your e-commerce eggs in the Pinterest basket. Best to spread your chips around the table and see what works.

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce, Retail Marketing

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