How Valuable Is Pinterest To Online Retail Sites?

    September 16, 2012
    Chris Crum

A new study finds that Pinterest is proving to be quite valuable for online retailers. While it trails Facebook in a variety of metrics, it’s gaining ground in those, and is leading in one very important metric. Plus, Facebook’s dominance only stands to increase Pinterest’s value within the other metrics.

Is Pinterest helping your business? Let us know in the comments.

Earlier this week, we looked at the following infographic from RichRelevance comparing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, in terms of the shopping traffic they drive to retail sites:

Who's driving traffic to shopping sites

The infographic is based on a study from the firm, which looked at 689 million shopping sessions on “leading U.S. retail sites” between January 1 and August 31.

“Every social network promises a new way of connecting consumers with retailers and brands,” said Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance. “However, the big take-away from our research is that not all channels in the social space are created equal. As retailers and brands continue to sort out how to take advantage of social networks, this infographic provides great insight into better understanding the nuances of each channel, how they resonate with consumers and how marketers can take advantage of each in their own unique way.”

It may be Facebook on top in most of the metrics listed in the graphic, but Pinterest, interestingly, is blowing both Facebook and Twitter out of the water in the critical AOV (Average Order Value) metric. That is: the sum of revenue generated divided by the number of orders.

Also of note is Pinterest’s “surprisingly large share” of sessions (particularly when compared to Twitter, which has obviously been around much longer). Likewise, Pinterest is significantly higher than Twitter in share per session and revenue per session. Pinterest is gaining in both revenue per session and conversion by source, as RichRelevance points out.

It’s no surprise that Facebook is the dominant player here in most of the metrics, given its sheer size. The company recently revealed that it has 955 million active users. However, this actually serves to help Pinterest in the same metrics, given the site’s Facebook integration.

For one, Facebook is one of the log-in options for Pinterest, so many users are already using Facebook.

Facebook featured Pinterest in its “Developer Spotlight” earlier this year, taking about how Pinterest was taking advantage of the Facebook Timeline. “Pinterest focused on the most frequent and social things people do on their site – pin and follow – and built Open Graph stories that people could identify with,” explained Facebook’s Will Liu. “Pinterest also prompts people to add the app to their timelines through a clear call out that is integrated into the design of the site.”

In less than a month of launching its Facebook Open Graph integration, Pinterest saw the number of Facebook users visiting Pinterest every day increase by over 60%. Now, that stat is slightly dated at this point, as the post was from February, but the point that Pinterest is only helped by Facebook remains valid.

It’s worth noting that RichRelevance’s study only included browser-based shopping sessions and not shopping that may originate from mobile apps. This is actually a really important thing to consider for a couple of reasons. For one, Facebook says its mobile users are more likely to be daily active users.

Secondly, Pinterest has only had its new mobile apps available for about a month. In August, the company launched its new apps for Android, iPhone and iPad, which should only lead to more users, sales and brand engagement for brands. For that matter, Pinterest has only been available without an invitation for just over a month too. If it’s had this big of an impact on an invitation-only basis, it’s quite likely that we have yet to see Pinterest’s potential.

As I noted in a previous article, Pinterest’s growth and cross-platform compatibility could be just what the doctor ordered for e-commerce businesses looking to get more web traffic from social media, especially now that they have to pay Google to be listed in Google Shopping. There are various products coming out designed to get Pinterest users interested in, well, products.

ShopInterest, for example, is a DIY online shop for merchants to create pinboards of the stuff they sell.

Of course, RichRelevance’s data only represents one study. MarketingCharts does a little comparison, writing, “These findings appear to contrast with data released in July 2012 by Jirafe, reported by Forbes. According to that study, which examined the behavior of 89 million online shoppers who visited Jirafe’s clients’ 5,000 online stores in the past year, average order value (AOV) for traffic from Twitter and Facebook was far higher than for Pinterest traffic. In fact, traffic from Twitter (5.3x), Google (3.45x), Facebook (2.5x), and Bing (2.1x) all had AOV’s more than twice as large as traffic from Pinterest.”

“Methodological differences may explain the discrepancies,” MarketingCharts adds. “The Forbes article noted that Jirafe serves only a few of the top 500 online retailers, such that Pinterest data for these larger sites may be more positive. The RichRelevance data is also based on its client base – select US sites that have deployed its retail recommendation software. That study also includes only browser-based shopping sessions and does not include shopping that may originate from mobile application versions of the platforms. It is unclear how such sessions were treated by the Jirafe study.”

In general, brands themselves are flocking to Pinterest. According to a recent study from SimplyMeasured, 51% of the top 100 global brands now have Pinterest accounts.

Pinterest has been expanding its category offerings, and I expect that this will continue, which should only open the door further for merchants. It already has its built-in “gifts,” feature, for product promotion, complete with price tags.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, it’s a drop-down menu at the top of the homepage, which lets users browse items by price range. Pinterest will include price if it’s in the description of the post. Shopify has a good post about this and other ecommerce tips, saying, “Every ecommerce store owner should make full use of this functionality!”

Shopify also suggests pinning other people’s products, and not just your own, not pinning every item you sell, linking to products “tastefully,” being visual with product photography, creating a re-pin board, and of course, getting followers. They suggest frequently posting Pinterest content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ streams, adding, “Remember to keep the focus of your posts on things that are visual appealing.”

Has your site seen a significant amount of Pinterest traffic? Do you have a Pinterest strategy in place? Let us know in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.