Pinterest inspires Staples to change strategy

17 January 2014
NEW YORK: Staples, the retailer, has drawn on the example provided by Pinterest and similar social media sites as part of the inspiration for redesigning its online and bricks-and-mortar stores.

Arun Arora, svp/gm of global ecommerce at Staples, told delegates at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show about how it leveraged the idea of "curation", as embodied by Pinterest, to help shoppers overloaded with information. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: How Pinterest inspired Staples to change its strategy.)

In its redesigned physical stores, this has meant scaling back the previously overwhelming array of products on offer, and installing digital kiosks that give them access to the huge portfolio of items sold on its website.

"From the beginning to the end of the store, we've limited the products which we want to highlight," said Arora – greatly assisting people hoping to buy goods like cameras or computers, where the choice available is enormous.

Typically, this has involved narrowing the selection down to the "top three products that have most relevance for the features and price-points that our customers look at", meaning decisions are quicker and simpler to make.

Staples' website, relaunched in late 2013, plays into the same notion by displaying a judiciously "limited selection" in search results.

"Our philosophy, going in, was that we wanted to take the friction out of it; we wanted to let the customer have an easy experience," said Arora.

"Don't show them 800 choices; allow them to find it, but don't make it hard; allow them to focus and transact quickly," he said.

Alongside adopting a "tile-based" design, Staples.com has adapted another primary feature of Pinterest, in that it uses pictures to tell a story.

More specifically, it has employed the principle of "asymmetrical merchandising", or grouping products together not by brand or category, but whether they are regularly purchased together.

Delving into the data, for instance, revealed that when a customer bought a piece of furniture like a desk, they also frequently acquired a rubbish bin, clock and Pledge cleaning products at the same time.

That understanding prompted Staples to add links to each of these items in the listings for all the others, a strategy that has yielded beneficial results.

"They don't have to hunt for the clock, the Pledge, the furniture," said Arora. "The 'add to cart' aspect of it, and hence the revenue, has been terrific."

Data sourced from Warc
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