Digital Conference

Ad Age Digital Conference: Why Brands Should Explore New Channels of Buying

Warby Parker, Stripe and Pinterest Execs Talk Getting Consumers and Merchants on Board With Buying on Social Platforms

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(From l.) Michael Yamartino, Pinterest; Chris Maliwat, Warby Parker; John Collison, Stripe; and Ad Age reporter Maureen Morrison
(From l.) Michael Yamartino, Pinterest; Chris Maliwat, Warby Parker; John Collison, Stripe; and Ad Age reporter Maureen Morrison  Credit: Rob Tannenbaum

Consumers might be browsing on their phones, but only a fraction of them are buying. During the "Making Social Commerce Stick" panel at Ad Age's Digital Conference Wednesday, panelists discussed why consumers and merchants are reluctant to adopt new buying platforms, and how to convince them to get on board.

"Clearly consumers take a while to learn a new behavior," explained John Collison, president and co-founder of online payment company Stripe, which partners with companies including ShopStyle and Twitter. He added that retailers are also needing some persuasion.

"Something like Pinterest or Twitter is a new channel," he said, noting that for merchants, rather than bringing customers back to their own websites, such sites are "pushing people to the channel where they're spending their time and that means giving up control."

Brands such as Warby Parker know customers and potential customers are spending time on social sites like Twitter and Pinterest -- their goal is to bring commerce into such platforms. While some retailers prefer to retain control by only operating their own commerce apps, other brands have begun to branch out.

"We love to be on those platforms," said Chris Maliwat, head of product management at six-year-old Warby Parker, noting that the brand diversifies its message based on the social medium. "It gives us permission to tell a broader story, to be across many platforms instead of holding the brand tight -- how we represent ourselves on Pinterest is an expression." He noted that moving into new mediums can help a brand attract new customers.

Yet not all retailers are so willing to move buying onto other platforms. In order to convince them, Pinterest and Stripe have provided side-by-side demos to illustrate how seamless the buying process can be through a buyable pin, for example, versus buying through a brand's site.

Michael Yamartino, head of commerce at Pinterest, noted that the conversation has shifted recently and retailers are starting to realize the importance of expanding their commerce opportunities. "People are coming to us and saying, 'We get it now, we want to participate, when can we get on board?' And that's a really important shift."

While consumers might be hesitant to shop via other networks because of potential inventory lags, Mr. Yamartino noted that keeping stock updated is a primary focus. Pinterest gets inventory feeds every few minutes for some cases and stock is double-checked once a consumer begins the checkout process.

"You never want to say, 'Congratulations, you just bought this,' then two minutes later follow up with an email that says, 'It was actually out of stock,'" said Mr. Yamartino.

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