E-commerce News and Insights
Sep 22, 2015

Instagram or Pinterest: What’s Best for Fashion E-Commerce

There are a couple of truisms that all digital marketers in the fashion industry endorse.

One: Webpages with images convert more sales than text-only sites.

Two: Social media is increasingly powerful at converting browsers into buyers.

At the nexus of these two truths are the image-centered social networks, the biggest of these being Instagram and Pinterest.

But while the biggest fashion houses and the largest fashion e-commerce sites might have the resources to be active on both networks – as well as on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope, etc. – for smaller businesses in the industry or designers flying solo, both finances and time are strictly limited commodities.

So if a small business has to choose to double-down on either Instagram or Pinterest, which should it choose?

In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of the two social networks from the perspective of a fashion e-commerce site.

Instagram and Pinterest

Firstly, it’s worth revisiting the core elements of each of these social networking tools.

Instagram is a born-mobile application. For a long time, it only allowed square-shaped images to be uploaded via their mobile app, though recently it has diversified its capabilities, permitting rectangular, panoramic, and short videos to be uploaded, too. Images can be filtered through any of Instagram’s pre-installed options and edited.

Instagram uploads can be private or shared with the public. While no one will see private feeds without the permission of the feed owner, public feeds are available to two groups: the public at large and the feed’s followers. Should a feed have followers, images automatically appear in that user’s own personalized feed.

Communication happens through image captions as well as hashtags, which Instagram uses to organize and categorize images. Every hashtag is searchable and caters to a slightly different audience, enabling savvy brands to leverage these communication channels to develop larger followings and gain greater exposure. Users can both comment on and ‘like’ another user’s Instagram photos.

Pinterest is certainly about sharing, but it is more about curation. While available on mobile, it is primarily used via desktop computer where the larger screen rewards the exercise of curation. Pinterest allows users to collect and curate collections of images organized into boards. These boards are essentially folders arranged around a theme – for example pants, scarves, summer, business or street style – that can be shared with others.

A Pinterest board can include images created by the user or where the copyright is owned by the user, but most often they are collections of images encountered on other Pinterest boards or elsewhere online. Adding an image to a collection is simple and a couple of clicks is all that is necessary to move an image from a Google image search – or any other website – to a Pinterest board.

Pinterest images are known as ‘pins’ and can be annotated with notes and captions. Repinning, the act of adding a pin of another user to a board you own, is a common activity for Pinterest users who see something they like on the network.

Pinterest is searchable and, while users and boards can be private, most are public. Paying attention to descriptions on Pinterest can prove an advantage for brands hoping to earn some organic search attention from users of the site. A word of warning, though: while users of the site can search for boards and pins, and while Pinterest is indexed by Google and other search engines, results from searches are only available to logged-in users of Pinterest. All others just get a glimpse of the image or board and a prompt to log in or sign up.

Now let’s examine who uses these networks and how you can reach out and sell to them.

Knock, Knock. Who’s There?

Instagram and Pinterest might both be image-centric social networks, but they have distinctly different audiences.

  • Instagram attracts about a quarter of all adult internet users but skews slightly female, very young, less wealthy, and urban.
  • Pinterest attracts about a quarter of all adult internet users but skews strongly female, older, wealthier, and suburban.

Fashion e-commerce sites trying to decide between the two social networks can thus begin by asking themselves the question, “Who is my customer?”

If the customer is young, interested in fast fashion, based in cities, and has little disposable income, then go for Instagram. If the customer is older, has more disposable income, and primarily suburban, go for Pinterest.

But there’s another element to consider beyond just where the target customer can be found.

Advertising on Image-Centric Social Networks

Both Instagram and Pinterest offer advertising and direct sales opportunities for marketers and brands, but both are also different enough to be worth looking at more closely.

Instagram has been offering advertising for nearly two years now and has managed to build a platform that is increasingly broad based. At the beginning, advertising was only really attractive to big brands and targeting was limited.

Today, perhaps thanks to the experience that parent company Facebook has offered, Instagram ads are far more targetable and allow for the integration of ‘click to buy’ buttons that mean the distance from image to shopping cart is much reduced. Forget about a link from the image to a website, to a shopping cart, through a shopping process – jump straight from the image to the cart and speed up the sale.

Instagram maintains a blog specifically for advising businesses on best practices – there’s plenty of good information there about how to target advertising effectively on the platform.

When it comes to Pinterest, not only are there opportunities to advertise and sponsor pins, but there are also similarly-styled ‘buy it’ opportunities available through Pinterest for Business.

It’s now possible to add a blue ‘Buy it’ button next to the red ‘Pin it’ button and provide fans and visitors a chance to buy directly via your pinned images. The Pinterest interface is slick and customer friendly – it’s not difficult to understand why it’s being embraced by brands and fashion houses alike.


Choosing where to allocate resources in a social media marketing strategy is important and, while Instagram and Pinterest appear similar, they are different enough to make the choice important. For a business with limited resources for spending on advertising & branding through social tools, choosing the best image-centric social network is important to avoid wasting both time and money.

The key differences between the two networks relate to their functionality, their audience, and their advertising opportunities:

  • Instagram is born-mobile, Pinterest is well-suited for desktop users

    Instagram is born-mobile, Pinterest is well suited to desktop users

  • Instagram attracts a younger, less-wealthy, more urban, and majority female user base, Pinterest attracts an older, more wealthy, more suburban, and vastly more female user base

    Instagram attracts a younger, less-wealthy, more-urban, and majority female user base, Pinterest attracts an older, more-wealthy, more-suburban, and vastly more female user base

  • Instagram offers highly targetable advertising with opportunities to buy worldwide, Pinterest offers a superb shopping experience but is limited to the U.S.

    Instagram offers highly targetable advertising with opportunities to buy worldwide, Pinterest offers a superb shopping experience but is limited to the U.S.

For small and large fashion houses and fashion e-commerce sites alike, understanding these differences is important and will allow for the very best strategic decisions to be realized.


This post is contributed by Dylan Kissane, Content Manager at DOZ. DOZ is your one stop, on-demand marketing software.

Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.

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Shan Lian
was a product marketer at Shippo.

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