E-commerce is a well-established part of the Christmas shopping rush, with shoppers spending £7.9bn online in December 2011.

Social media is an important tool for attracting online shoppers and promoting gift ideas, and this year many retailers have turned to Pinterest to try and maximise their visibility online.

Research by Searchmetrics shows that five of the top 10 UK online retailers have created Christmas themed pinboards containing ideas for gifts, decorations and food.

And it’s not difficult to see why. Research shows that Pinterest drives more sales and a higher order value than either Facebook or Twitter, though for sheer volume of referral traffic it’s still difficult to beat Facebook.

Looking at how retailers are using Pinterest, Argos leads the way with six pinboards including gifts for him and her, secret Santa and top toys.

Tesco and John Lewis both have four Christmas boards, New Look has two and ASOS has one.

It’s interesting to note the different strategies of each of the retailers. ASOS and Tesco obviously see the value in engaging with other users on Pinterest and their pinboards include a lot of content from other sites around the web.

New Look also includes one or two pins from other users, but at the other end of the scale Argos and John Lewis only feature their own products.

It’s common for brands to use Pinterest simply to promote their own products, which seems to totally miss the point of social media.

However it could be that they don’t want to dilute their brand or that they want to avoid the murky waters of copyright infringement.

Even so, in our post listing nine best practice tips for brands using Pinterest, we recommend that they consider pinning third party content in order to help personalise the brand image and encourage consumers to identify with the business.

Searchmetrics’ research also looks at which brands are achieving the most shares on Pinterest.

Images and pages from ASOS were found to have been shared most overall, but Debenhams is currently top when looking at the number of shares per week.

Up to the 12 November, 80,071 links to content on ASOS had been pinned on the social network, compared to 45,157 for John Lewis and 27,067 for Debenhams.

But Searchmetrics’ weekly data found that Debenhams currently generates the highest number of average pins per week (1,963), followed by ASOS (1,499) and John Lewis (755).

Please note, this table is a screenshot so the hyperlinks don’t work.