Holiday Shopping with Pinterest: How to Use Social Media to Drive Sales

Nov 28, 2012

Article Image"Cyber Monday" may have come and gone, but that doesn't mean America is done with its online holiday shopping. In fact, a recent LivePerson survey found that 63% of shoppers plan to do 50% or more of their holiday shopping online. And this holiday season retailers have relatively new tool at their disposal with sites like the wildly-popular Pinterest.

"I think Pinterest is going to be huge [this holiday season]," says Sean Gelles, an expert in social media strategy and analytics. "Obviously, a brand has its .com, the brand has its Facebook page, but Pinterest really lets you get out there and say, ‘Look, these are our products.'"

He adds, "When you are talking about clothing items, apparel, shoes, handbags, things for the home-all that stuff is such an opportunity for brands on Pinterest. Because the more images I can get of a product, the more ways that I can see it before I actually buy it, the better. And, this facilitates the convenience of not having to go to the actual retail location."

Gelles also suggested that retailers pin videos to their Pinterest sites to further enhance the visual experience. "Video is a really big opportunity too. You can put video on YouTube and then pin them to Pinterest," he says.

Since social media still "skews female" and because women "have the primary responsibility for a lot of this gifting process," says Gelles, companies selling consumer products this holiday season have a big opportunity on social media sites like Pinterest.

"Women tend to share more and you can take advantage of that in social media," he says. "If you really try to appeal to that audience you can get more mileage out of your content too because they'll share it with their friends. All their friends-get them involved too. It's less about providing information; it is really about creating a rich experience that gives the person as much a sense of what it's like to use the product."

Terra Walker Mrkulic, social media manager for LivePerson, says that the gender gap is starting to close on Pinterest. "We are definitely seeing more men come into the market-lots more men's topics, b2b companies," she explains. "LivePerson has a Pinterest page so we are definitely seeing a bigger mix come on board as the site gains in popularity."

Indeed, referrals to retailers from Pinterest are on the rise, according to Damien Acheson, head of product marketing at LivePerson. "We are seeing a huge increase in referrals to retailers from Pinterest," he says.

"The less good thing is I'm not convinced retailers are fully leveraging the opportunity that this traffic provides them with," Acheson continues. "The reason is because the experience between what's happening on Pinterest and happening on the retailer's website is not connected."

According to Acheson, it's important for companies to have continuity between a social campaign and their website. For example, if someone clicks on a Pinterest picture, and it takes them to a company's website, the retailer should make sure that visitor can see the product that they clicked on in the first place (this can be achieved with real-time targeting tools). Also, it's important for retailers to make sure the website is equipped with "Pin" buttons so that touchscreen and PC users alike can easily pin products from the site to their boards.

One company that has done a stellar job engaging customers on Pineterst is Lowe's, according to Mrkulic. "One of the biggest retailers on Pinterest is actually Lowe's, which is not necessarily known for its beautiful product line but they're doing all kinds of really creative things to give people inspiration on how they can create things... and showcase the Lowe's product line simultaneously."

The LivePerson survey results also showed that respondents are still using Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to research products, find discounts and search gift ideas, and more shoppers plan on using social media to interact with their favorite brands this holiday season. Those findings were not lost on Facebook, which tried to introduce a "Facebook Collections" feature earlier this year.

In early October the social media giant rolled out the Pinterest-like feature on a trial basis, but by the end of the month Facebook had pulled back. At the time TechCrunch reported, "because the product is being built out, presumably for a full launch, not being shut down as I originally published. Facebook will improve Collections and port it to mobile, but had to shut down the existing version to do that."

With December on our doorstep, whether or not the Collections will make a comeback in time to make an impact on holiday shopping is unknown - but probably unlikely.

("Laptop and Gifts" courtesy of Shutterstock.)