Why E-Commerce Startups Can’t Ignore Pinterest


Why E-Commerce Startups Can’t Ignore Pinterest

This series by Mohannad Ghashim of ShopGo.me is part of our Demystifying E-Commerce series. It will explore various technical issues involved in starting up and running an e-commerce site.

Social networks are all over the internet, but why pay close attention to a small social networking website like Pinterest?

Pinterest has proven its ability to attract referrals to eCommerce websites. According to Shareaholic’s report earlier this year, Pinterest attracts more referrals to your website more than YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn all together.

So, if you own an e-commerce website, you should pay attention. Pinterest users have grown from 1.68 million to 7.2 million users in fourth quarter of 2011 and it’s been able to build a solid social shopping base.

To get an idea on the number of referrals Pinterest can bring, have a look at the following graph, which shows that the number of referrals coming from Pinterest is double the number of referrals coming from Yahoo and Bing combined.

But what is the difference between Pinterest and other product pages on Facebook and Twitter when it comes to attracting referrals from social shoppers? The answer is simple: Pinterest is more targeted towards social shoppers, whereas Facebook and Twitter are more general.

From Pinterest’s homepage, there is a minimum of two clicks needed for you to reach the online store where the pin you are interested in originated. For e-commerce 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.

So how should you establish your brand on Pinterest?

Pinterest provides you with powerful platform for building your brand. This doesn’t come by merely creating an account on Pinterest; you have to genuinely engage on the platform. This will show your followers that you’re not just using Pinterest only to promote your online store; you’re promoting a lifestyle. This method of operation will enable you to gain more followers and build trust.

It’s also critical to ensure that your site has good pictures and videos of your products, as Pinterest pins can only include picture and videos. 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.

Using Google Analytics to Track Pins

If you want to study the traffic coming from Pinterest, you can use Google Analytics. 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 each pin individually. 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 from "http://pinterest.com/username/board", although individual pins will be the ones referring the most traffic. 

The following photo demonstrates traffic from pin URLs: 

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.

Once you have a steady flow of Pinterest users, it will be 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:

  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. 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.

  4. 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.

In the end, if you are an e-commerce store owner, you can’t ignore the advantages Pinterest offers. Not only is it a great tool for both small and medium companies, it’s also fun. Most importantly, it provides you with detailed insights about your clients, and by the end of 2012, it will be a mainstream social media outlet that you’ll want to already understand.

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