Remember the old shopping programs on TV? Where the host would tell you to call the 1-800 line and buy the product now? Well, Pinterest remembers.
This week, Pinterest TV - a new approach to video format for the platform - aired its first direct shopping experience. Here’s the take:
Pinterest is playing catchup with other networks. Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat all have successfully utilized this model. And Direct Sales TV app is also alive and kicking. But most importantly, is it worth it for brands to get involved at all?
Direct TV sales are still a thing. In early 2021, AT&T sold its DirectTV channel to TPG equity group for a whopping $7.8B. The declining channel still had over 17M viewers at the end of 2020, but still showed enough promise to be sold at that price.
Now DirectTV has apps on streaming services like Roku and HBO Max. And although it’s leaking customers, the app is going nowhere anytime soon.
Where am I going with this? This is a preface to the fact that while direct selling seems like an outdated model, it’s very well alive and kicking. Although it moved into the digital age, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and now Pinterest are embracing the model.
In 2020, 45% of Instagram influencers notes IGTV as the most important tool for their work. Because of IGTV’s features, influencers can leave links in video descriptions for users to follow so they can shop directly from the video. With several additional features, users can tap and check out from the platform too.
These functions are direct descendents of the classic direct selling. You see a product, you like it, you buy it. No need to even call. It’s been called social e-commerce before and I think it’s an excellent name for this phenomenon.
TikTok also has direct selling features. In fact, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest made strides towards this format influenced by TikTok’s model. However, by mid-2021, only 5% of US social media users have made any purchases on TikTok. Compared to Instagram’s 17%, the number seems small. However, the model was working and other social networks were forced to respond.
TikTok has run into some troubles though. In December 2020, the platform explicitly banned multi-level marketing activities, which was a direct blow to, uh, direct selling. The move was surprising and received criticism from legitimate direct sellers who used TikTok as their platform. It’s hard to say how to tell them apart, let alone what impact it will have on TikTok in the long term, but so far, the platform is doing just fine.
Direct selling as a term has a bad reputation. Usually associated with MLMs mentioned above, the practice has been in decline for some time. But with social media and legitimate brands getting involved, true direct selling is not dead yet.
Is this yet another marketing channel? For B2C marketing, yes. Pinterest TV is clearly banking on fashion, food and other goods that consumers are interested in. There are no numbers as of yet if Pinterest’s gambit is successful, but following Instagram and TikTok’s example, it’s likely to do well. If brands are willing to provide legitimacy to direct sales practice, why not? Buying directly from a trusted influencer might seem like a good deal for a lot of consumers.