Virtual pinboard Pinterest is the hottest thing on the Web right now. That means that it deserves the attention of merchants and marketers as well as the millions of users who have made it one of the fastest-growing websites in history.
Some of the most recent numbers indicate that Pinterest currently drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, and that 9 percent of the top 300 online retailers are offering “Pin it” buttons on their own sites. That’s compared to about 60 percent who have Facebook Like buttons and 20 percent who have Google+ buttons – and Pinterest was a relatively unknown commodity until just recently.
The point is that an enormous opportunity awaits e-commerce merchants who understand how to leverage the popularity of Pinterest by utilizing the service itself as well as the rising number of ancillary tools. Here are some tips on how to do exactly that:
If you’re still unsure of what all the buzz is about, here’s a quick review of what Pinterest is, followed by how it can generate revenue for Web retailers. It is a social “pinboarding” site on which users share images with one another by “pinning” them onto their “boards”. Users can create multiple boards and give them specific themes, and other users can follow the boards in which they are most interested, sharing their favorite pins with still others by “repinning” them, liking them and adding comments.
The actual images or pins on each board can link back to a retailer’s online store, which is why many of today’s top brands are using Pinterest to display their products, create awareness and build communities of targeted, qualified users. That last part is of critical importance for merchants – visitors who land on retail websites by way of Pinterest are generally highly targeted potential customers who have already shown an interest in a specific product, category or brand; more so, in fact, than most users who share products on Facebook and Twitter.
This is what makes Pinterest such a potential gold mine for merchants, and here is how to optimize for the best results.
Add “Pin it” buttons to your online store
As mentioned above, about 28 of the top 300 Internet retailers have already done this, but expect that number to rise dramatically in the very near future. Pinterest users will have Pin it bookmarks on their own computers’ browsers, but this simple step is a must for merchants who want to get the best results out of the Pinterest experience. One more reminder to visitors of your online store that your product images are available for pinning can go a long way toward attracting and converting new customers.
Get creative with your use of images
If you have been delaying that update to your product catalog or website design, do not put them off any longer. Pinterest offers a rapidly growing community with which to share your images, but not just any images or use of imagery will do. Poor-quality, outdated or uninteresting product photos may even have the opposite effect and drive users away from your store rather than to it. Make sure that you offer a wide selection of photos that properly illustrates the different styles in which your products are available (see example).
And product images are hardly all we’re talking about, so start getting creative and generous with your overall use of imagery. Add compelling photos to each and every blog post and pin the images to Pinterest; update the “About” section of your website with photos of staff members and pin them to Pinterest; involve your customers in the process and ask them to submit their own photos of themselves with your products, perhaps as part of a contest, and pin them to Pinterest; take photos at industry events and your own company events and pin those to Pinterest, too. These are just a few ideas for how to get more serious about images and video than you may have been up to this point.
Take advantage of your tracking and referral data
Through Google Analytics, merchants can easily determine what referral traffic is arriving via Pinterest as well as keeping track of individual pins. This information can be used to determine the most popular items on your board that are receiving the most pins and how many actual conversions are resulting in each case. Based on this data, retailers can experiment with time-sensitive sales for Pinterest users or offer discounts for the products that users are pinning the most – and/or rewards for the most active pinners among your Pinterest community.
Don’t be a stranger
The most successful merchants on Pinterest are going to be the ones who actually use it the way other users do, and not strictly as a marketing vehicle. So have fun with it and interact with the community, and don’t be a stranger who drops in every once in a while. Get in the habit of spending some part of every day on the site, and also in the habit of pinning every interesting, fun and/or engaging photo or video that you come across. You won’t really be a part of the community if your only interactions are dropping by every other week to pin a new product photo. One way to ensure that you have a community of users from the start is by encouraging your existing customers to take the Pinterest plunge along with you, and build out from there. Another way to increase your Pinterest street cred is by playing on both sides of the ball, i.e. make sure that you are helping other users by pinning their photos and videos rather than just idly sitting by and waiting for users to pin your content.
Don’t stop at Pinterest
Just as the daily deals craze began with Groupon but then grew exponentially larger than the company behind it, the pinboarding craze has more than a good chance to outgrow just Pinterest. In fact, that process has already begun with sites such as Chill, a pinboarding site for video only, and tools such as this one for Joomla users and these WordPress plugins. Many retailers went this route at the height of the daily deals buzz and have enjoyed great success by running their own versions of deals sites, but at the very least you should keep an eye on the increasing number of Pinterest clones out there and give some of them a try as well.