Is Pinterest a Dark Horse in Mobile Search?

pinterest-logo2More than two-thirds of Pinners use their mobile devices to look at pins while they’re physically in stores, according to new research from eMarketer. Though Pinterest isn’t typically compared to Google or Bing, these numbers illustrate that it’s still a search platform at core, particularly in the mobile space.

The overwhelming majority of Pinterest users – 80 percent – use the platform on their mobile devices daily and of those who do so while they’re out shopping, 45 percent are searching for inspiration. As a result, search and mobile are increasingly part of Pinterest’s plans. In June, the platform rolled out buyable pins and last June, it launched a keyword-heavy Guided Search.

“When you search on Pinterest, we’ve added additional tiles underneath based on the popularity around that keyword; we’re kind of guiding you down different expansions of that search,” says Sarah Hoople Shere, product marketer at Pinterest.

Doing a search for “backpack,” Hoople Shere points out that “school” and “leather” are suggested tiles with teens and men in mind, respectively. She adds that the platform’s search capabilities aren’t only helpful for consumers, but brands looking to learn more about them.

“We see a lot of searches that aren’t super specific but think one level up, when you’re not sure exactly what product you want but you’re starting to refine,” she says. “We’ve seen brands use our search products for getting consumer insights into how people think about the brand and the types of things they’re looking for. If I search for ‘Nordstrom,’ I could easily see at a glance, the other [related] things people search for.”

Nordstrom is one of the brands lauded for its Pinterest presence. The Seattle-based department store has 4.4 million followers – Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue have a combined 406,000 – and “Top Pinned” displays in-store, which play into eMarketer‘s findings.

Similar research from Millward Brown Digital, the market research division of WPP, found that 93 percent of U.S. users had used Pinterest when planning to make a purchase, and 87 percent bought something as a result of the platform. As of April, Pinterest searches have increased 30 percent from last year.

“If I’m in a store, I’ll pull up Amazon or Best Buy or something like that, looking at prices and checking reviews. Using Pinterest as a shopping app is a natural extension of that,” says Andy Odom, digital marketing manager for Santander Consumer USA. “I think it could certainly be a bit of a disruptor for ‘dark search’ as much as encrypted search might be, or how WhatsApp might be a disruptor for dark social.”

Simon Jenkins, social media director at Tug, a London agency focused on search and social, has completely changed the way he talks about the platform with clients over the last few years.

In the past, he referred to Pinterest as “where you go if you like cupcakes.” Now, he acknowledges that it’s become a player in search, noting that friends of his use the platform to find wedding ideas, just as you would on Google.

“If you looked at Twitter and Facebook even five years ago, people weren’t talking about them in terms of search,” Jenkins says. “Because of the rise of social search, any social platform used by a decent amount of people will be thought about in terms of, ‘How do we use this for search?”

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