Pinterest, Instagram and other visual social media have been rising in popularity for a while, but how are they changing the way we shop online?

Human beings are visual creatures, and seeing something attractive is one of the best ways to get us interested. This is part of the reason why visual social media like Instagram and Pinterest have grown in popularity so quickly; sometimes it’s great to log on and see things that look nice!

However, are they actually useful from a business perspective? A lot has been made of the fact that Instagram’s “Shop Now” feature has made it to the UK, allowing retailers to tag products in their posts so users can directly buy something that catches their eye, rather than having to rely on the classic “link in bio”.

But is this likely to take off?

How much influence do social networks like Instagram and Pinterest actually have on their users’ shopping habits? According to the research, the answer is: a lot. Two studies – one from Dana Rebecca Designs and the other from Pinterest itself – show that the platforms have a major impact on user purchase decisions.

First off, Pinterest. The company surveyed over 4,000 of its users, and one of the things it was hoping to find out was whether or not content from brands added or subtracted from the overall experience. Surprisingly, 78 per cent of respondents said brand content was useful, as it allowed them to see new products they might like.

Among Pinterest users, 70 per cent discover new products on the social network, and a staggering 90 per cent said the platform helps them decide what to purchase. In addition, 72 per cent said that Pinterest inspires them to shop, even when they aren’t actually looking for anything.

Meanwhile, the Dana Rebecca Designs study found that Instagram influences almost 75 per cent of user purchase decisions, especially when it comes to beauty and fashion. The company surveyed 2,000 Instagram users and found that 85 per cent followed accounts that were “style, fashion or lifestyle-focused”.

In fact, many of the people surveyed used Instagram even when shopping in physical stores, with one in three admitting they use the social network to help them make decisions while they’re out shopping.

Ahead of the crowd

All of this goes to show that visual social media are some of the best tools when it comes to influencing purchases. This makes them vital for marketers looking to achieve more sales with their campaigns. If you can market something in a visually appealing way, and make the product the star, you stand a good chance of converting on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.