24 April 2020, 10:22 AM
  • Growing support for local businesses could prove fruitful for the food industry
Pinterest reports rise in food shoppers supporting SMEs

If there’s one thing many people can agree on, it’s that the global Coronavirus pandemic has created a greater sense of community. Businesses are collaborating to support the SME ecosystem, not-for-profit platforms are being established to help spread positivity amongst the food industry, and retailers are offering a helping hand to suppliers to keep them afloat.

But it’s not just the businesses that are supporting each other: customers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting smaller businesses when they perhaps need them most. This means many shoppers are opting to shop at their local deli, baker or farm shop, but it’s also seen a surprising trend emerge on Pinterest. The visual discovery app has seen a marked increase in Pinners looking to support SMEs that may be struggling amidst the pandemic.

“In the UK, searches for supporting small businesses has increased by 11-fold in the last few weeks as people are coming to Pinterest to feel more connected to local communities and businesses,” a Pinterest spokesperson told Speciality Food. “People are discovering how to support them, from finding ideas such as ordering deliveries from local butchers to writing positive reviews about their local restaurants. More than ever before in Pinterest’s history, people are coming to the platform to search, save and send ideas as the platform is fostering community around the world. “

Inspiring a wider audience
When it comes to selling goods online, Pinterest may not be the first platform to spring to mind. But it certainly provides opportunities for SMEs as well as independent retailers, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic where it’s perhaps increasingly evident that businesses need to utilise alternate sales platforms. With physical shops closed and retailers dedicating their resources to online orders, platforms like Pinterest offer the chance to reach a larger audience to maximise e-commerce opportunities. Selling goods and products through Pinterest isn’t new, but with the platform witnessing a surge in users (and shoppers) during the lockdown, now is as good a time as any to take advantage of what the platform has to offer.

“As a visual discovery app, Pinterest gives people the opportunity to discover new ideas, buy what they see, and find one-of-a-kind businesses,” the Pinterest spokesperson explained. “Over the last few weeks, Pinterest usage is at an all-time high as people are looking for inspiration ideas such as how to make bread and what to make with a tin of tomatoes. Because people come to Pinterest looking for new ideas, they are actively considering what to do or buy next. Businesses, both small and large, can reach them when they are making a decision about what products and services to try.”

Setting up shop
For Caitlin Wyn Phillips, digital marketing and design coordinator at Fowey Valley, a Cornwall-based company producing finely crafted food and drinks, it was through personal experience of the app that led her to trial a shop for the business: “I have used Pinterest myself for a number of years now, to plan house renovations, outfits and recipes. I found it influencing some of the items I was purchasing, much like any other social media platform. So I created a business Pinterest page for Fowey Valley and uploaded some of our product shots. We’re often complimented on our ‘look’, in particular the bottles used for our Foy Gin and Vodka, so I thought the images may lend themselves to being ‘pinned’.

“Nicely photographed, naturally made, artisan products made by independent and small businesses fit nicely with the brand image Pinterest has cultivated,” Caitlin adds.

“Before I had even finished uploading our full range of products, we had a sale, which came directly from Pinterest. We haven’t had an extortionate number of sales directly from the site quite yet, but I hope the number will keep growing steadily. Selling through Pinterest doesn’t cost us anything, and it is essentially free advertising.”

So how does it work? If you’re familiar with Pinterest as a platform, you’ll know that it’s all about creating visual content to inspire people. The majority of keyword searches on the platform are unbranded, meaning many users are undecided on their purchase, so anyone is a potential new customer. What’s more, it means that small and large brands are on an even playing field, making it easier for SMEs to reach new audiences.

“The reach that Pinterest offers is really interesting,” Caitlin says. “If someone likes or shares one of our posts on Facebook, it’s sometimes shown to one of their friends. Our posts will leak out slowly but surely to a few hundred people at a time, depending on how many likes and shares we receive. If someone ‘pins’ one of our products on Pinterest, it’s shown to all of their followers, of which there could be thousands – and that’s thousands who don’t necessarily have to know the original pinner. This is potentially a much wider audience for us.

“We will definitely continue to sell through other outlets and retailers, but Pinterest is certainly something we’re going to continue working at in the future.”

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