Engaging through images

Given that 87% of Top500 retailers engage with their audiences via Pinterest, what is the secret to using the platform effectively? Chloe Rigby asks the question

Pinterest says it’s not like other social platforms. The thing that makes it different from Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, it claims, is that Pinterest visitors come in order to plan projects for themselves, rather than to engage with others. This is ‘me’ time, in which visitors turn to it as a “visual discovery engine” rather than a social platform. It’s about personal shopping, discovery and experience. During this time, users – who are currently mostly female, although with a fast-growing demographic of male users – are open to seeing the content that retailers and brands share on the site. They’re looking for ideas that will enable them to complete a project, one that is more than likely to involve a purchase.

Content on the site takes the form of ‘pinned’ images and ideas, collected together in noticeboards. More than 80% of that content comes from businesses, according to Pinterest. That’s a contrast with sites such as Facebook, where most content is generated by the users themselves. Which posts visitors see when they search is driven both by user curation and by machine-learning: users looking for a sofa will see a range of items that meet their criteria.

One point to consider is that the vast majority (97%) of searches on Pinterest do not use specific brand names – leaving search results open to any brand. Instead, searches may feature the boards put together by any of its 150m users around the world – of whom fewer than half are in Pinterest’s home US market. That means a user searching for home decoration ideas will see ideas from all over the world, from Scandinavia to Australia. At the bottom line, says Pinterest, it’s about inspiration, wherever it originates. From the pin, UK users click through to find out more about a product from the website where it was featured. That’s different from the US market, where users can buy from the pin. But, says Pinterest, British users like to click through to a retail site to buy. The move also means that retailers and brands can easily analyse which Pinterest posts have brought them the most revenue.

So how do retailers and brands go about reaching people in their decision-making journey on Pinterest? The secret to capturing natural search is to think visual, according to Pinterest. Strong imagery is a key part of ensuring that products catch the eye, storytelling is another. An extended pin might include a picture of a finished living room, but then add in images of the individual items that make up the total look. However, it’s important that the finished board looks like a lifestyle shoot rather than a catalogue. Context is everything. Promoted pins are also available: according to Pinterest these fit in well with other search-generated results since they look like other pins they see, although marked as promoted pins. Shoppers can also search for items using the Pinterest Lens – its equivalent of visual search. By photographing a product through this, they can find similar examples on the platform. The lens can also be used to view Pinterest pincodes, the site’s equivalent of QR codes.

John Lewis ran a Make it Thoughtful pre-Christmas campaign both on Pinterest and in its stores. Its boards featured ideas that went beyond the straightforward pair of socks for dad. By adding a box with a walking map and a compass to those socks – or some recipes to a casserole dish – the gift became much more thoughtful. In-store, paper pins were featured on the products that featured in the campaign, linking the two together across the digital divide. In a similar way, Anthropologie has used paper pins in its stores to highlight the garments that were most saved on Pinterest.

Online beauty site Feelunique sent out leaflets with a Pinterest pincode to shoppers who bought certain categories of cosmetics. Shoppers who bought a set of eyeshadows, for example, could use the pincode to reach the Feelunique board of eye make-up ideas. Similarly, Cath Kidston shoppers could find out more about bags they saw in-store by using pincodes attached to them to find out more about the range and how it was inspired.

B&Q undercut expectations of the DIY store by putting together a set of artier craft projects that were more likely to appeal to new audiences. Its features on Pinterest include ‘how to make a mini allotment’ or ‘how to make a macrame plant hanger’.

Tesco is one of a number of supermarkets that have used the platform to create food- and recipe-related boards. Users can find a recipe that inspires them, then click through to buy the ingredients. Seasonal recipe campaigns and lifestyle shots of kitchen equipment have both featured heavily on Pinterest.

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