Feb 16 2012

What Pinterest Means for eCommerce

Pinterest Logo
Social media websites are popping up all over the Internet landscape, so why would you pay attention to the relatively young Pinterest? Simple. Pinterest is already proving to drive targeted traffic to eCommerce retailers. According to Shareaholic’s January 2012 Referral Traffic Report, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn combined. Given Pinterest’s rapid growth from 1.68 million users to 7.2 million in Q4 of 2011, 2012 should to be a breakout year. Pinterest has managed to create an elegant, easy-to-use catalyst to drive social shopping. If you are an eCommerce manager, it’s time to pay attention.

How Pinterest Works for Users and eCommerce Merchants

Imagine an old school bulletin board. You pin pieces of paper, pictures, and other things that are of interest to the board. That’s essentially how Pinterest works, except that images and videos are the only things allowed to be pinned. Users are allowed to create multiple boards, each themed with a specific interest. All user boards are publicly viewable and, similar to Twitter, users can follow other users’ boards and are able to repin, like, or comment on a “pin” – used as both a verb and a noun in the Pinterest world.

The New Bulletin from Pinterest
For example, Jane may have three boards: Favorite Dresses, Delicious Treats, and Cute Animals. As Jane surfs the web, she runs across a dress she really loves on Planet Blue. Using the Pin It bookmark on her web browser, which is provided by Pinterest, she chooses to pin the dress to her Favorite Dresses board. The resulting visual pin is also a direct link to the product page where that dress can be bought on Planet Blue’s online store.

Because images and videos are the only things allowed to be pinned, Pinterest is most beneficial to online retailers with visually-appealing products and great photography to match. If you needed extra incentive to reshoot your product catalog, it’s here.

The Value of Targeted Traffic

How is this different from sharing that same product page via Twitter or Facebook? It’s more targeted. That’s why. Think about it. Traffic from Jane’s Twitter and Facebook pages consists of online explorers interested in Jane, what party she went to last weekend, what she had for breakfast, whether or not she’s in a relationship, etc. Traffic from Jane’s Favorite Dresses board on Pinterest consists of users who are interested in dresses. They may not even know Jane.

From Pinterest’s homepage, which gives an aggregate view of all the pinners you follow, there is a minimum of two clicks needed for you to reach the online store or website where the pin you are interested in originated. For eCommerce merchants, this means that a visitor who has been referred to your online store from Pinterest is highly targeted and qualified from the onset, and therefore, more likely to convert to a sale. It’s extremely unlikely that a Pinterest user will end up on your site from accidental clicks.

What Else Can Pinterest Do For Your Business

  • Establishing Your Brand on Pinterest

    This doesn’t mean pure self-promotion. After creating an account, it is not advisable to only pin items from your store. It’s more about sharing the lifestyle associated with your brand. Pinterest prefers that you genuinely engage in the Pinterest community, and your followers will appreciate it as well. For example, a wedding dress retailer may create boards for engagement rings, wedding decor, and honeymoon ideas, in addition to the obvious one for wedding dresses. Integrating pins from different sites on your boards will show your followers that you’re not just using Pinterest only to promote your online store; you’re promoting a lifestyle, a method of operation that will enable you to gain more followers and build trust.

    Examples of brands who do this well include Michael’s Stores and Lowes.

    Michaels Pinterest Example
  • Make Sure Your eCommerce Store is Designed Properly

    Because pins can only include pictures and videos, your eCommerce store should include one of these two types of media for its products. When users hit the Pin It bookmark in their browser or the Pin it button on the page itself, Pinterest analyzes the current webpage, searching for an image or video. If the content you wanted to pin is Flash or other rich media, Pinterest won’t be able to find it. You’ll want to test your product pages to make sure images are found when users attempt to pin your products.

    Pinterest PinIt Button
    All Pinterest users will have a Pin It bookmark on their computer’s browser, but for eCommerce merchants, it’s also a great idea to add a Pin it button to your product pages. This reminds new Pinterest users (which are almost all of them) that they can pin items they come across on your store. This is also helpful for Pinterest users who are browsing your online store on a computer that is not theirs, which won’t have their Pinterest bookmark installed for pinning.
  • Use Google Analytics to Track Pins

    Pinterest assigns each pin a unique URL in the form of http://pinterest.com/pin/x where “x” is a random number string, which enables Google Analytics to keep track of all pins on an individual basis. This is great for keeping track of popular items being shared and conversions that may result from the pin. You will also be able to see referral traffic come from http://pinterest.com/username/board, although individual pins will be the ones referring the most traffic.

    Pinterest in Google Analytics
    In Google Analytics, you can see all Pinterest traffic by going to Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals. Type “pinterest” In the search box, and the results will show pinterest.com and/or m.pinterest.com, which represents traffic from mobile Pinterest users.

    Just to illustrate how quickly Pinterest has grown as a traffic source, take a look at this chart from one of our clients. In the same time period, Pinterest has referred twice as many clients to this particular store than organic traffic from Yahoo! and Bing combined.

    Pinterest Targeted Referrals in Google Analytics
    Even if you don’t have Google Analytics installed, by using the url “http://pinterest.com/source/example.com” and substituting your website domain in place of “example.com,” you can see every pin that has been pinned from your domain. If you see a 404 page, it means nobody has pinned anything from your domain. If you feel hurt because you think your site as pin-worthy products, images or video, it might be time to install some Pin it buttons. If you want to establish a footprint on Pinterest, these are a great way to let your visitors know it.

    Pinterest 404

Deriving Value from Inbound Pinterest Users

Now that you have a steady flow of Pinterest users, it’s time to start deriving some value from them. Obviously, you’ll want to convert this traffic into sales, but you can also use it to learn where you may have design problems. Here are a few ideas. If you have others, please feel free to keep it social and list them below.

  1. Offering a sale on your most pinned items to increase conversions can be a good idea.
  2. A complex but optimal solution to increasing Pinterest conversions is to offer time sensitive sales to Pinterest only traffic. Your online store will need to look at the referrer data being passed by the browser and determine if it’s coming from Pinterest. If it is, your store could display a message or banner similar to “Thanks for finding us on Pinterest! We’re offering 20% off our entire store just for Pinterest users. This sale will expire in one hour.” The added urgency will help increase conversions.
  3. It’s important to note that when a user pins an image, Pinterest actually makes a copy of that image and uploads it onto their servers for display on Pinterest.com. This is to prevent Pinterest from accidentally crashing sites and make sure that pictures are always available. If your analytics show a pin that brings in lots of Pinterest traffic but has a 100% bounce rate, it is likely that the page the pin is pointing to is returning a 404 error to your visitors. This is just one of many reasons why you should never delete out of stock or old products from your store. At the very least, you can 301 redirect users to an appropriate category or provide an email capture to let users know when that item is back in stock.

Keep Pinterest Traffic Coming

Encourage your existing customers to start pinning. You can accomplish this by using currently engaged followers on other channels like Facebook or Twitter. This can be especially helpful when it’s used in collaboration with a contest that encourages your customers to create boards and pin their favorite product from your store. The brand awareness and additional sales this will create should outweigh the incentive you are offering for winning the contest.

If you are currently running an affiliate program, encourage your affiliates to use Pinterest. Pinterest has the right tools to be an affiliate marketer’s dream and has the potential to be the largest affiliate network that the industry has seen in quite some time.


As an eCommerce manager, you can’t deny the advantages Pinterest has to offer. Not only is it a fantastic tool for small and large businesses alike, it’s just plain fun. It also gives you tremendous insights regarding your customers, and by the end of 2012, it will be mainstream.

Blue Acorn


Mustafa Ahmed
Feb 28 2012

great article – very well explained. Thanx!

Megan Jones
Apr 12 2012

I have been using Pintrest since the very beginning. I originally came across the site using StumbleUpon and since have abandoned Stumble for Pintrest. Pintrest allows for such targeted content. When I first heard about retailers using Pintrest I was a little suspect, but I think it is a really great resource for many businesses and consumers alike.


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