Prepared by Tug ltd.
Author: Chris Mead

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube & Google+ have become almost mandatory channels for brands’ online marketing efforts. Yet the question for some still looms over Pinterest. Since its launch in 2011, the popular online pin-board now boasts a global user base of 48.7million, with over 3million of these users hailing from the UK according to comScore. Consequently, retail brands have seen e-commerce success by effectively utilising the social network and other brands and retailers are starting to take note by experimenting with its functionality. Amazon has responded to the success by recently introducing their own version integrated within their site titled Collections. While Amazon might have a clear distinctive advantage through its own on site build, other retailers will be hard pressed to see returns equalling their success with a similar move. Instead, a focus should be on the functions that Pinterest provides. This short article explains why Pinterest should be seen as an integral component to the digital marketing strategy for retail brands, and how the platform can be taken advantage of.

Using Pinterest to Drive Sales
There are a number of clear reasons as to why brands should be using Pinterest: brand awareness, brand equity and ultimately customer retention. Yet the defining factor that should sway retail brands into using Pinterest is its e-commerce and sales potential. Embedding Pinterest HTML code into your websites products pages (thereby making them pinnable and classified as “product pins”) can see a positive uptick in sales as a result. At the beginning of this month Pinterest enhanced this feature further with the release of price alerts for product pins and users are now beginning to receive e-mail notifications as soon as discounts are available on pins they have liked.

The answer isn’t quite as simple as pinning content from your e-commerce site. Pinterest has a host of features (namely, types of pins) designed to enrich user experience, one of which is literally titled “Rich Pins”, which brings about several benefits including the aforementioned price alerts and increased likelihood of appearing in category feeds. The features are designed to provide brands with the ROI they’re looking for through user engagement and importantly, sales.

Research conducted recently by Vision Critical concluded with the fact that “Pinterest is the network most likely to drive spontaneous purchasing.” This is a startling discovery, one which speaks dividends about the network considering its small user base in comparison to the larger social networks Facebook, Twitter and Google+. However, it is one that makes sense. Pinterest offers a visually, aesthetically pleasing user experience that, when coupled with the right product imagery, can provide a sizeable return, especially among more lucrative iPad users who find Pinterest’s interface more appealing. The study also showed that 50% of Pinterest shoppers created a pinboard specific to their purchase decision, indicating a strong link with the platform and product research. User generated reviews should not be discounted here either – bustling communities on the site are contributing their thoughts on product pins in comments directly them, akin to Amazon, these reviews are factoring into purchase decisions.

The same Vision Critical team conducted a study for the Harvard Business Review on Pinterest and revealed the phenomena of “reverse show-rooming” - where consumers are now browsing products online on Pinterest and then returning to bricks-and-mortar stores to make the purchases. This type of purchase process and consumer journey is currently difficult to track, but the study has proven it firmly exists, with 41% of its surveyed users admitting to partaking in this activity.

Examples of how to do it right
It’s clear here that Pinterest drives both online and in-store purchasing. When you factor the astounding rate of the networks growth, it is difficult to see why more retail brands are not making a clearer, concerted effort to take advantage of the opportunities the network presents. Larger brands have taken to the platform, and you’ll currently find many experimenting with the search for the most effective strategy to drive sales. It’s true that there is no single formula that proves effective for every retail brand, each has to be tailor-made. Yet there are a number of best practices that these brands are employing as part of their overall social media strategy.

ASOS are a great example, pinning content that is not directly from their website to drive sales leads that inform purchasing decisions. You’ll find countless great pins on ASOS page boards, with images ranging from Drew Barrymore in denim jeans, to trendy festival goers at Glastonbury. The practice here exemplifies their brand identity and company values in a way that is natural to Pinterest, resonating strongly with its user base, enhancing discoverability and building brand awareness.
IKEA are another example of a brand using Pinterest to explore its mechanics boasting a “PIN it to WIN it” competition on its own channel linked to Facebook. The concept is similar to the well known sharing mechanics we see on Twitter & Facebook respectively, and is a great way to promote brand awareness amongst Pinterest users and their networks. IKEA is also culpable of ignoring a notable best practice in this instance – the lack of product price pins. Shopify’s study on the network suggests pins with labelled prices receive 36% more likes than the average pin and people referred from Pinterest are also 10% more likely to buy the product.

Understanding where your audience are talking and interacting is essential to any digital marketing strategy and Nike are a good example of a brand that have done just that, with their Nike Women’s board that addresses Pinterest’s predominantly female userbase. Interestingly however, if you look back at the recent report by ComScore – the UK user demographic has changed dramatically in terms of monthly users and is now nearly 40% male.

What’s clear overall is that Pinterest has become an integral component to larger retail brands’ digital marketing campaigns. Brand discoverability, the building of brand equity and the emerging e-commerce opportunities are three key reasons why retail brands should be using the online pin-board. The channel cannot succeed on its own either. All of the top brands cited in this article have integrated their use of the channel with other key social networks like Facebook and Twitter, illustrative of a coherent, thought out social media strategy necessary for success.

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Tug is an award-winning, search marketing agency, and the Lighthouse is our new knowledge sharing hub. The purpose of The Lighthouse is to guide and enlighten our fellow Search, PPC, Social Media, Display and Affiliate marketing professionals. As the online marketing field evolves, we aim not only to keep up, but stay ahead in our thinking, and share knowledge with one another. Our collection of white papers provides up-to-date insights in an easy-to-digest format. Founded in 2006, Tug is an original silicon roundabout company that breaks the mould by taking a left-brain-right-brain approach digital marketing. Our bespoke programme builds brand awareness, new media opportunities, strong ROI and business growth for clients like Aon, Wonderbra and Dairy Crest. Tug’s combination of robust planning and execution with creativity has earned us seats on the IAB and DMA search councils.
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Published on: 3:08PM on 3rd October 2013