By Andrea Lillo
While the social media world is pretty fast paced, the rise of image-sharing site Pinterest is still impressive in its explosive growth. But though it might be easy to label Pinterest — a virtual pinboard on which users “pin,” or post, images and share them with others — as just another social media site, companies are seeing it as an integral part of their brand building, as well as a means to convert consumers to purchasers.
Having launched just over two years ago, Pinterest has accumulated millions of users in a short amount of time. The site had 17 million unique visitors in February 2012, compared to just 500,000 unique visitors in May 2011, according to the latest Social & Mobile Commerce Consumer Study from comScore, Shop.org and The Partnering Group. The study also found that users spend an average of 38 minutes a day on the site — though there are consumers who confess to spending countless hours on it.
Pinterest is “an online window shopping event,” the survey said — “albeit a window shopping experience set by the consumer, not by the retailer.”
“It’s a peer-to-peer tool,” said Jennifer Tarsitano, vice president/business development, E+M Advertising, which works with companies on their social media strategies. Before, if someone wanted ideas for a kid’s party or a wedding, she would seek out recommendations from friends and family. But now, Pinterest opens up that pool with its curated content that is user driven, she said. Users follow people that share their tastes and styles, and that “makes shopping for things that inspire you easy.”
For online retailer Wayfair.com, Pinterest “is a visual brand for our voice” and offers a targeted demographic, said Trista Mack, social media strategist. While people may look at Facebook to catch up on friends’ babies or what others did that weekend, they come to Pinterest to explore their interests, she said. “It’s a visually inspired community.”
And a positive one, said Tarsitano. A consumer may vent her frustrations about a retailer on that company’s Facebook page, but Pinterest is more about sharing the love.
Macy’s found its consumers were spending a “significant amount of time on [Pinterest] discovering content and planning for their wardrobes and homes,” so it launched its Pinterest page several months ago, said Jennifer Kasper, Macy’s group vice president, digital media and multi-cultural marketing. “Through Pinterest, we’re able to engage in a direct-to-consumer conversation with our customers, especially those belonging to the millennial demographic, which is an overall focus for Macy’s.” It can also drive interest and awareness for its campaigns and initiatives, she added, such as creating boards for its “Brasil: A Magical Journey,” its shop-within-a-shop that features Brazilian product.
For a recent project with the Ellen DeGeneres show, for which DeGeneres was giving one of her fans a house, Wayfair donated more than 1,000 furnishings. It also created a board for each room and the products included on its Pinterest profile, and the traffic from those boards to the Wayfair site alone approached what the company normally sees from its Pinterest profile overall, executives said.
People who love a look may want to buy it, and that’s where Pinterest is proving powerful. Wayfair gets the highest conversion rate from Pinterest than all the other social media it uses, the company said. Wayfair’s average order size from Pinterest referrals is 65 to 70 percent higher than its site average, the company said.
“That’s very significant,” said Kris Kennedy, editorial director, Wayfair. “We believe this shows that consumers finding our products on Pinterest are basically pre-qualified leads — people who have an emotional connection to their homes and a passion to make them look their best.”
E-commerce software provider Shopify found that referral traffic from Pinterest to more than 25,000 Shopify stores is equal to traffic coming from Twitter. But of that traffic from Pinterest, shoppers are 10 percent more likely to make a purchase compared to those coming from other social media sites. And of those purchases, the average Pinterest order is $80 — or double the average order from Facebook.
In the newly released Social & Mobile Commerce Consumer Study, 66 percent of Pinterest members said they had clicked through to a retailer’s website from Pinterest, while 45 percent browsed or researched products or services, and 39 percent purchased products or services.
Retailers hope to capitalize on this strong engagement by integrating buttons on their websites to make it easy for consumers to pin a product directly to their Pinterest boards, making it visible to the user’s followers on Pinterest.
But that being said, Pinterest is not the place to push sales or percentage-off coupons—or site users will push back. “It’s not a channel to push traditional marketing messages,” Wayfair’s Mack said. “We’re sensitive to the fact that it’s a community,” she said. “It’s not a place to just slap products on.”
For non-retailers, the site is still important to promote a brand and interact with an industry. “Pinterest is a very visual way to showcase what the High Point Market is all about — fantastic products and design,” said Cheminne Taylor-Smith, vice president of marketing, High Point Market Authority, which worked directly with Pinterest for its Style Spotters program, where home fashion trendsetters pin their favorite products and trends from exhibitors during the show. “I think the biggest surprise we had was how quickly everything took off.”
This past April, the Style Spotters program was even more popular, said Taylor-Smith, as it had three times the traffic and votes on the Style Spotter boards than last October, when it launched. “We love the interaction with the community — that’s really one of the best things about Pinterest,” said Taylor-Smith. “Instant feedback.”
Surya debuted its Pinterest page in April with boards that focused on its spring introductions and the latest colors and trends. “We have been creating mood boards for years in our catalog, but couldn’t find a simple tool to share digitally,” said Satya Tiwari, president, Surya. “Pinterest is what we were looking for all along and we are thrilled to make our virtual pinboards easily accessible to the Surya community.”
While Pinterest is still a small part of The Phillips Collection’s social media strategy, it’s a growing one, said Jason Phillips, vice president and creative director, who loves the boards. They “really help understand how people curate their favorite things, places, textures, colors, wines,” he said. “It’s quite addicting, as anyone who understands Pinterest will tell you.”