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What Amazon, Walmart can teach retailers about leveraging Pinterest

As the leading retailers on Pinterest, and Walmart present some important best-practices for others looking to leverage the quickly-growing social network, including the importance of integrating Pinterest on product pages and the need for themed boards.

With the majority of social use taking place on mobile devices and Pinterest streamlining product merchandising in a way that works well for smartphone users, retailers have been quick to embrace Pinterest to help them boost their mobile strategies. However, some retailers are doing a better job than others of taking advantage of the opportunity offered by Pinterest, which requires a different approach than Facebook or Twitter.

“High traffic retail sites such as Amazon which have many thousands of products will always have a big advantage in driving pin activity on Pinterest,” said Matthias Bachor, director of marketing at Searchmetrics, Berlin, Germany.

“And we know that both tablets and smartphones are increasingly used when people are both browsing and researching products online and also when they are using social networks,” he said.

“So I think we can be confident in saying that mobile is playing an important role in driving Pinterest pins for retailers in the same way it that it is driving likes, shares and tweets.”

Pin this is the most popular online retail site in the United States when it come to having Web content shared on Pinterest, according to a new report from Searchmetrics.

The company studied the top ten U.S. retail sites and found that images and pages from are shared most frequently on Pinterest, at around 16,360 per week.

Walmart is in second place with 5,778 pins per week followed by Apple with 3,871.

The results point to the good job Amazon has done of integrating Pinterest into its ecommerce Web site.

“Amazon’s content gets pinned a lot because users are inevitably browsing its site for things that they want and things make great pins,” said Mark Pinsent, social and content lead at Metia, Seattle, WA. “In many ways, people are using their Pinterest boards as their public wish lists, and obviously the idea of a wishlist is central to Amazon. Hence, there’s great synergy.

“Every online retailer should learn from Amazon,” he said. “Have a ‘pin this’ button on every item on your site.”

All of the leading have set up their own official Pinterest pages to make it easier for consumers to share their online content. QVC has the highest number of followers for its Pinterest page at 42,683 compared to Walmart with 33,337.

Themed boards
One key learning from Walmart is that a successful Pinterest strategy is not just about retailers pushing their own content but trying to share content that their followers will find useful or entertaining, even if it does not produce a sale.

For example, Walmart has set up ten separate holiday boards to generate interest in its products with holiday shoppers, including boards for entertaining, baking, gifts, decorating the tree and holiday decorating. The boards include pins of content from other sites.

Office Depot has a board sharing content about the band One Direction, which the retailer is partnering with for a campaign against bullying.

“Every retailer should learn from Walmart,” Mr. Pinsent said. “Group products into lifestyle buckets, which can be played out through Pinterest boards.

“I see retailers’ Pinterest boards being akin to their real-world windows displays,” he said. “They spend a lot of time, money and thought designing those; they should pay the same care and attention to Pinterest.”

Active shoppers
Going forward, Target could be the winner on Pinterest as the retailer has been quick to leverage Pinterest’s APIs to integrate its most pinned items on its own Web sites (see story).

“Target may prove to be the clear winner on Pinterest this season,” said Matt Witt, executive vice president and director of digital integration at TRIS3CT, Chicago.

“In addition to a strong presence on the platform itself, Target has taken great advantage of Pinterest’s new API, via their Awesome Shop, which highlights items that are both top pins and have 4+ star ratings,” he said.

Other key learnings from the Searchmetrics report include that most of the content from retailers’ sites is pinned fewer than a hundred items. However, many retailers have one or two pieces of content that has gone viral and been pinned and repinned thousands of times.

Other important Pinterest strategies include rich pins and analyzing performance.

“We recommend retailers with a strong ecommerce presence strongly consider implementing Pinterest rich pins for their site; as they allow Pinterest visitors to see pricing, availability and where to purchase the products,” said Ellen Potapov, Chicago-based social media supervisor at Resolution Media.

“It’s crucial that retailers analyze their Pinterest performance regularly and establish KPIs to identify which content works and which doesn’t,” she said.

While Pinterest may have only 70 million users – significantly fewer than the big social networks such as Facebook and Twitter – its users are active shoppers. By enabling these users to pin items of interest that can be shared with others, retailers can introduce consumers to new products, deliver recommendations for products and drive traffic back to their site.

“Pinterest has proven to be a huge factor this holiday season,” TRIS3CT’s Mr. Witt said. “From a user engagement perspective, it’s tailor-made for a mobile experience and very much fits with how many of us now shop.

“Consumers, especially women, turn to Pinterest for ideas year round, showing traction for showcasing products in a manner that focuses on consumer passion points,” he said. “There’s also a huge spike in individuals and marketers creating holiday-themed boards, showing seasonal-specific activity for the platform.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York