Industry Insider With Erin Elofson

Our keynote speaker, Erin Elofson, Country Manager at Pinterest Canada gives us her top insights on the current state and the future of retail in today’s ever evolving landscape.

Q. The rapid changes and on-going transformation in recent years have obliged the retail sector to take stock, rethink its strategies and reinvent itself. Do you think the retail sector has been able to keep pace with all of these demands?

The retail sector is definitely facing a new set of consumer expectations, and we’re seeing a fast-paced transformation as a result. Retailers are learning that the future of their sector isn’t as simple as making sure they have a working online and physical presence. Instead, the future of retail is about creating meaningful experiences that engage and inspire customers in the place of their choosing, whether online or offline.

At Pinterest, we believe shopping means all of those moments before the purchase that haven’t been replicated online such as window displays, merchandising, and even navigating through a store.  Because we understand our audience in a totally different way than a standard search engine or social platform, we enable people to have a more personalized shopping experience and help them to make unexpected discoveries, save new ideas, and often, be inspired to buy something.

Q. eCommerce has been around for quite sometime now, what would you say retailers find most challenging about eCommerce integration.

So far, most innovations in eCommerce have been focused primarily on the transaction rather than recreating and integrating the valuable in-store discovery experience online.  Consumers are naturally inclined to respond to visual inspiration because it enables people to be inspired and envision ideas that could come with a new product or service. While the transaction is still important, there is a new emphasis and fresh opportunity for creating experiences that inspire consumers.

When you think about it, the online retail experience evolved in the opposite way that physical retail grew – text first, then voice and last visual.  At Pinterest, we believe the future of online shopping will be visual and not words. Pinterest started with the visual goal in mind. While the changing landscape has presented more considerations for retailers, at the core, retail is about introducing consumers to new ideas that inspire them to make a purchase. The future of eCommerce centers on the ability for people to have discovery experiences. At Pinterest, this comes in the form of visual search.

Q. As technology advances, so does shopping. What does the future of retail look like? Would you describe it as more interesting or more uncertain?

The retail industry knows about the importance of evolving to meet the ever-changing consumer. And while the physical store remains a key part of today’s retail business, the kinds of experiences the consumer wants to have with it is different. Digital is now an important partner to the store experience and no longer limited to just the role of transactions that it did in the past. The shopping journey of today’s consumer includes more touch points than ever before, many of which go beyond the convenience and ease of transacting.

People have always used Pinterest for shopping inspiration, and over the years we’ve been making it easier to shop for anything you see on our platform. Every time you see a product you like on Pinterest, you should be able to buy it, or discover more products like it, based on your unique taste. That’s our vision for shopping with Pinterest. And, as retailers upload their product catalogs on Pinterest and shoppers save Pins, we have generated hundreds of millions of shoppable Pins across Pinterest with the current price on the Pin itself. With one click, you will be taken to the checkout page of the retailer. Thousands of retailers have uploaded their full product catalog to Pinterest, including IKEA Canada, Home Depot, Shoppers Drug Mart, Joe Fresh and Walmart Canada. Pinterest is a visual discovery for ideas, but also brands.

Q. Who do you believe is going to benefit more from the retail revolution, the retailer or the consumer?

Ideally, both the consumer and the retailer will benefit. Without a doubt, the customer has the most power, and this is how it should be. It’s widely accepted that the retail revolution is changing consumers’ shopping habits such as where and how they shop. However, while a lot has changed in retail over the years, what hasn’t changed is how important inspiration is to the retail business. Retail is rooted in creating inspiration in people’s lives. Back in the day, the store played a very different role in people’s lives. Without smartphones in people’s pockets, you’d have to ‘go to the store’ physically in order to find new possibilities to bring into your life. And because of this, ‘shopping’ was very much an experience. People and their families and friends would go shopping together. The actual transaction was the result of the browsing journey, not the starting point for consumers.

That inspiration and browsing experience is as important as ever today and retailers need to be able to connect that inspirational journey across all their channels, online and offline.  Today’s consumers are conditioned to expect tailored, visual shopping experiences across multiple channels — online, in-store, and at their fingertips, on mobile. While the changing landscape has presented more considerations for retailers, at the core, retail is about introducing consumers to new ideas that inspire them to make a purchase.  And as always, the consumer has the power to walk out of the store or click to another website.

See Erin Elofson open the conference with her keynote ‘Start Inspiring. Stop Interrupting’ at 8.45am on Day 1 of the conference. Register now!

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