Riding The Latest Social Media Wave: Pinterest eCommerce Marketing Strategies
Pinterest has rapidly turned into the next ecommerce playground. Monetate reports that the same-store referral traffic from Pinterest for five specialty apparel retailers rose 389% from July through December of 2011. While Pinterest's user base is still primarily female, the site is driving enough ecommerce traffic for retailers to take notice and begin developing Pinterest ecommerce strategies.Any marketing analysts who had written off Pinterest after its 2009 launch, cannot ignore the recent astounding statistics swarming the company:
- Pinterest's unique visitors increased 429% from September through December of 2012 (Monetate).
- Pinterest currently drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn combined (Shareaholic's January 2012 Referral Traffic Report).
- The number of Pinterest users grew from 1.68 million to 1.72 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 (Shareaholic's January 2012 Referral Traffic Report).
- Pinterest reached 10 million unique U.S. visitors faster than any site in history (Comscore).
While simple in concept, Pinterest may prove more valuable to online merchants than other social networking sites because it has an inherent product focus that is at the core of its social "sharing" purpose.
The Beauty Of Pinterest For eCommerce Is Its Simplicity
It's an invitation-only virtual pinboard where users can create wish lists, party/travel ideas, recipe lists, decorating/renovation ideas or collections of inspirational quotes. Pinterest's emphasis on pictures over text makes the site visually appealing and a unique social channel. It allows users to organize visual information in creative ways and share it with others. Like other social media platforms, Pinterest users can share pins, follow pinners, or follow specific boards.
Why Pinterest? eCommerce Merchants Take Notice
Similar to other social media outlets, Pinterest offers sharing and following capabilities. But the Pinterest platform also offers unique marketing opportunities that put it in the running for the world's largest affiliate marketer and search reviews engine. eCommerce merchants would be remiss to ignore these benefits:
- Pinterest product-sharing is more targeted since the site's purpose is to post and share images of interest rather than simply facilitate every aspect of social interaction, like Facebook, for example.
- Like other social media sites, Pinterest provides data on consumer personalization. Consumers volunteer information about themselves that retailers can use to integrate into their marketing plans.
- Pinterest generates consumerism by emphasizing discovery over specific product searches. Users explore pins to collect ideas. Pinterest creates interest in buying before consumers even decide what they want.
- Pinterest's best secret might be that while users pin pictures, they become interested in products and begin browsing without even realizing they are shopping. Because products linked to company websites serve as affiliate ads (for those companies who already have affiliate programs), there are no annoying pop-up or banner ads littering the website.
- When users click through to an ecommerce retailer's site, they are interested in specific products and likely to produce sales.
- Repins of products amplifies their initial cyber presence.
This data from Shareaholic is evidence of a future Pinterest ecommerce revolution with a 12% growth per year trajectory.. While Pinterest still trails Facebook, its growing popularity is undeniable with 2012 a potential breakthrough year. Pinterest ecommerce traffic reports will be heavily anticipated this year.
How To Begin? A Pinterest eCommerce Plan
After creating an account, Pinterest merchants can organize boards that tell stories about their companies. While retailers should certainly take advantage of pinning products, this should not be the sole emphasis of their sites. Pinterest is about illustrating lifestyles. Pinterest merchants should consider the lifestyle of their customers and create boards that emphasize different aspects of this. Showing an interested in sharing information and promoting a lifestyle earns the trust and respect of followers.
GE has begun this process with boards that emphasize the values of the company and its consumer base. (See below)
Although Pinterest ecommerce perhaps favors more visually-oriented businesses with products to provide rather than services, any company can take advantage of this platform with a little creativity. Before even creating a Pinterest account, online merchants should prepare their website for Pinterest appearance. When a user tries to pin something from a webpage, Pinterest scans the page for available images to use. Merchants would be wise to include plenty of appealing pictures and video on each page. (Unfortunately, Pinterest does not locate flash or other rich media at this time.)
GE is an example of a company that has embraced Pinterest ecommerce. This image is GE's Pinterest homepage. GE has created several different boards, only one of which displays images of products. The "GE Café" includes images of kitchen appliances as well as food and recipe ideas. Their "What Works Project" board features contest winners.
GE also showcased its creative side with a "Making Data Work" board. Here the company posts links to data from different websites and blogs. The board's caption reads "Data visualizations are a powerful way to simplify complexity. We are committed to creating visualizations that advance the conversation about issues that shape our lives."
Like GE has initiated, Pinterest ecommerce boards can showcase more than products. Users can pin a variety of resources including visuals related to blog articles, data, inspirational quotes, news stories, etc. When selecting pins, Pinterest merchants should pin only from permalinks and remember to credit their sources. Retailers also have the option of monitoring a follower board that allows consumers' contributions. While users can already "like" and comment on pins, creating an open contribution board is an added step in reaching out to a consumer base. It communicates that a company values the opinions of its public and wants to showcase them.
Pinterest conveniently provides button code for users wishing to share their accounts. This is a nice tool for Pinterest merchants who are trying to increase their social media presence.
Pinterest Backlinking And Keywords
While the SEO channel through Pinterest remains to be fully scrutinized, its potential excites Pinterest merchants. When a picture is extracted from a webpage, a backlink is created. Creating pinboards adds SEO value since every pin and repin builds another backlink to the source of the image. If an ecommerce retailer discovers that another user's pin of a product does not link back to the appropriate website, then he or she should leave a comment asking for the pinner to correctly identify the source. Pinterest merchants can optimize their SEO juice by adding keywords to their pages. Keywords can be included in pin descriptions and the profile page. Companies should add descriptions to all of their pinboards and complete the "About" section of their profile pages. Pinterest eCommerce Maintenance Once a merchant's Pinterest site is up and running, there are many ways for companies to encourage activity, including:
- Offering a sale on the most pinned items.
- Offering an exclusive pinning contest to Pinterest followers.
- Encouraging blog readers to comment on pins or to repin.
- Following the people who pin them. (These may be their best customers. Companies should discover what their interests are and repin them.)
- Sharing pins on other social media sites.
- Commenting on comments.
- Creating thank-you boards for current or past clients.
- Creating boards that tell client stories with pictures.
- Adding visually-appealing coupons.
- Encouraging affiliates to use Pinterest.
Merchants should never delete out-of-stock or old products from their online stores. They can 301 redirect users to a relevant category or provide a message to let users know when an item will be back in stock.
Online merchants can post their Pinterest RSS feeds on their websites, blogs or other social outlets. To encourage pinning from a website, businesses should post product pins and "follow me on Pinterest" buttons. Pinterest posts the code for these buttons in their site's "Goodies" section.
Relevant Pinterest eCommerce Data
As with any marketing strategy, data collection is essential to assess efficiency. Even if businesses haven't installed a traffic reporting program like Google Analytics, they can still view every pin that is pinned from their domains by entering the URL http://pinterest.com/source/business.com and substituting "business.com" for their website domain. If a 404 message appears, no pins exist yet. Once Google Analytics is installed, businesses should measure all Pinterest traffic that enters their sites.
Pinterest merchants should also research what other brands are doing with their Pinterest sites to glean marketing ideas. Pinterest has a "popular" link that allows online merchants to research the site's trends. Pinterest users are interested in what is hot in the market, which is a behavior merchants want to study and attract.
On a final note, Pinterest, according to its users, is extremely addictive. It's a pool of consumers with exponential growth rates addicted to looking at products when they aren't even aware they are shopping. The ecommerce plane is shifting.
Pinterest is the 2012 site to watch.