Today, it is virtually impossible for a fashion eCommerce business to survive on the market without relying on social media to promote its brand and boost conversions. However, when it comes to deciding which social platform to go for, the decision is not the easiest one to make.
Major corporations and big international brands can certainly afford to be active on all social media, from Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, to LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr and others. Small merchants, however, don’t have the financial means nor other resources necessary for proper presence on more than one social media platform, so they have to pick the one that will be the most beneficial to them.
When it comes to fashion, two social media platforms have established themselves as essential: Instagram and Pinterest. This isn’t only due to their popularity, but perhaps even more so due to the fact they are based and reliant on images. Images (photography, stylebooks, photo editorials, product images and videos, etc) are the primary tool for product promotion in the fashion industry, an industry that is inherently visual in its nature.
So if you are a small to medium fashion eCommerce brand and are trying to decide whether to opt for Instagram or to focus on Pinterest instead, read on as we help you try to figure this question out.
A Brief Introduction to Instagram and Pinterest
Instagram is an app that was created specifically for mobile. It is an image sharing app that allows users to upload and edit images and short videos to their profile and share with their followers and/or publically (depending on settings). Interaction on Instagram consists of “likes,” mentions, comments and shares, as well as direct messages.
Instagram Stories launched in 2016, with features very similar to those on Snapchat. As for eCommerce, Instagram recently added the “Click to Buy” button for business profile ads, which drastically reduced the distance between an image and the shopping cart.
Pinterest, on the other hand, is also about sharing, but perhaps even more so – about curation. It is primarily used on desktop computers and its most important part is the so-called boards, collections of images centered around a theme. Images can be added (“pinned”) to a board from other boards, or uploaded from the user’s own (often copyrighted) images.
In addition to repinning, which is the most common Pinterest activity, users can also add comments and send messages. Most users and boards are public, and searching for hashtags and keywords is supported, which is a major benefit for brands. However, search results are only available to registered and signed-in users.
When deciding which of these two image-based social platforms to use for your eCommerce brand, it’s useful to consider your target audience/users and to compare them with average Instagram and Pinterest demographics.
For instance, Pinterest is a bit more popular among women than Instagram. Approximately 55% of all Instagram users are women, while the percentage of female users on Pinterest is much higher – almost three quarters of its total users. There are also considerable differences in age groups: Instagram is mostly popular in users younger than 30 while the most dominant age group on Pinterest is between 30 and 50.
Also, Instagram is slightly more popular among users with a lower annual income compared to Pinterest, and its users mostly come from urban areas, while Pinterest is more popular in suburban ones.
Targeting and Engagement
Fashion eCommerce cannot afford to use blanket advertising as some other industries do. They need to segment their users and customers and target them with specific messages, offering specific products and product lines.
The social media platforms you are going to use should be able to display your content to selected audiences. In terms of targeting, we have to say that Instagram does much better. Similarly to Facebook, which now owns Instagram, the platform allows you to target very narrowly selected and specific users, something that you cannot do on Pinterest.
However, Pinterest does better in another important aspect – engagement. On Instagram, a user can only perform a handful of actions, such as like and share. On Pinterest, you can actually curate photos and boards, so the level of engagement is obviously higher. And why is engagement important for eCommerce? The answer is simple: it boosts conversions.
Buying Products on Instagram and Pinterest
So far, we have focused on the marketing potential of the two social media platforms, but what about actually buying products on those platforms? Until recently shopping on Instagram and Pinterest was not possible. You had to follow a link to the brand’s eCommerce store if you wanted to purchase something and you had to look for the product you saw on the platform in the eCommerce product catalog, which took some time and was quite frustrating.
Today, with a “Click to Buy” button on Instagram and buyable pins (the blue “Buy It” button), the process is much easier and definitely shorter. While some platforms (Twitter, to be specific) decided to kill their “Buy” buttons due to lack of interest from users, this feature seems to be doing well on Instagram and Pinterest. People appreciate being offered the chance to bypass several steps and to buy directly from the platforms. There are a few caveats here, though. Sometimes, a brand needs to focus more on engaging users before starting to gently push them into buying. And notice we used the word “gently”- being too pushy with your promoted products won’t get you far either. Remember that social media platforms are primarily just that – social. eCommerce may fit nicely in Instagram and Pinterest but it’s far from the main reason why people are there. Don’t forget that, unless you want to start losing users.
There is no definitive answer to the question which platform is better for fashion eCommerce. As we said earlier, if you can’t afford or just don’t want to use more than one social media platform for your fashion brand, there is a number of factors to consider before committing to just Instagram or just Pinterest.
Consider your customers’ demographics and also consider your brand’s overall vibe and style. If your target audience is predominantly urban and young and if they tend to spend a lot of time on their smartphones, then Instagram is the right platform for your brand.
However, if you’re aiming for more mature, suburban and a predominately female crowd, consider Pinterest instead. Also, ask yourself where you want to direct your efforts more – into targeted advertising or into direct selling?