I have been an avid user of Pinterest and passionate advocate since high school. Namely, as an artist, I found it an unparalleled source of inspiration and discovery. That evolved into recognizing its far-reaching marketing implications, which I foresee transforming how we find products and brands we are passionate about, how we make purchase decisions, how brands identify and profile consumers and competition, and how brands cultivate community.
Pinterest allows me to organize and collect inspiration as well as literally create boards of purchasing consideration sets. For marketers, the network of pins is a dream: pins are pinned, re-pinned, and re-pinned again, creating a long thread of pins, users and boards, followers and related pins. If harnessed, this network of data could help brands find and analyze competition and get into the mindset of their target and potential consumers. What other products do they like? What is their common aesthetic? What how-to’s, DIY’s , or other content do they find valuable? Who influences them?
The power, for me as a user, is in finding special people—other users with similar tastes and interests. I discover new and exciting material and products by following a thread and identifying key people along the way. This discovery process is heads-and-shoulders more rich than a typical keyword search in Google, leads to spontaneity and serendipity, and naturally introduces a curation element when you find people like you.
Pinterest has been offering richer and more robust capabilities for marketers recently, including the “buy it” button, sponsored pins, analytics, a database of success stories, and a growing community of marketing developer partners. One of the most interesting and inspiring stories I found was Artifact Uprising, which creates real goods from digital images. This captures the spirit of transforming ideation into reality. It not only shows how Pinterest can enhance brand’s marketing strategies, but also literally create and fuel business growth.
As the years have past, I have welcomed new features and capabilities with excitement (i.e. the pin-it plug-in making it easier to pin off-site pictures, the introduction of private boards, the ability to search not only pins, but also boards and users, as well as building-out pin & board suggestions).
The user experience has only become more natural and empowering. In contrast to other social media sites, sponsored content is not obtrusive or annoying. In fact, it is often enlightening and welcome, because more often than not I am looking to find a product. The “buy-it” button on pins only adds a level of convenience, it doesn’t detract from the authenticity of the platform. This is reflected in the results: conversion rates and CTR have been shown to increase, while CPA has risen less sharply. Marketers are coming on board, with ad spend rising 7.7x since January.
“The power of the Pinterest platform is in tapping into the consumer’s purchase mindset at all stages of its process from inspiration, discovery and now all the way through the purchase itself.”
– Greg Andersen, president of Rapp U.S.
Internally, the amount of data they have is really exciting. It could be used to track trends and spur predictions a la Google Analytics. Check out this blog post on how Thanksgiving pins began in August this year. Using data (pins and searches) like this could potentially transform our perception of user buying patterns, consideration periods, and help assess product interest and market size.
Visual Search & Finding What You Weren’t Looking For
Some recent articles by the Wall Street Journal and AdWeek have touched upon what Pinterest is working towards: visual search. Pinterest is a visually-based discovery platform, what is a more natural evolution than visual search? Pinterest is working on leveraging data to create closer associations between pins, allowing tighter links between offered content and user identity. As I discussed in my Visual Content presentation as well as my follow-up blog post. visual content has exploded, become omnipresent, and is critical for brand resonance. Visual search will only compound this 100x over, embedding visual content as the central piece in marketing and product promotion.
Pinterest is perfectly positioned to take visual search on and to be the herald of a new age of exploration. It’s already begun, check out this article on their blog. This addresses the most frustrating element for me as a user: when you find some product you love but can’t actually trace it back to its origins to buy! Or if you find an image with various elements but you want the shoes– now you can zoom in on that one element and go from there, giving you more power and control. Not to mention this can lead to more traceable ROI on those brand personality or atmosphere images, where the brand doesn’t explicitly “sell.” As of right now, visual search will only leverage organic pins, which in turn encourages authenticity.
It’s no secret that Pinterest is breaking all records for growth, now valued at $11B. I believe the trajectory is only goes up and the demographic of the user base, currently 100M monthly users strong, will only broaden. Discovering and saving products and spending time on pursuing your interests is a universal need and I’m excited to see the new products and features that will develop as the platform matures.