The Small Business Guide to the Pinterest Boom

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted February 25, 2015

Pinterest, the image-based social media site from San Francisco, is not only growing fast, but may also be getting ready to make a big move into the ecommerce arena.

The company is reportedly readying its own "buy" button, and of course the underlying platform to handle online and mobile purchases. Pinterest is taking things slowly, presumably to launch a solid solution and get things right from the get-go, according to David Rekuc, marketing director of Ripen Ecommerce, a digital agency that specializes in ecommerce.

It may be a while before small businesses, particularly retailers, can sign up for buy button, but there are some very good reasons why they'll want to start their Pinterest journey today.

Shoppers Flock to Pinterest

Pinterest has more than 70 million monthly users, an impressive feat by any measure, and one that's made even more noteworthy by the type of user it attracts. Sure, it has gained a reputation as a female-friendly social site—the company "is making efforts to grow its male audience," noted Rekuc—but Pinterest users visit the site with "a lot more of that intent to buy," he told Small Business Computing.

Small business, ecommerce, and Pinterest

"Pinterest fills this niche that isn't necessarily about networking with others in the traditional sense," Rekuc said. Instead, it "serves as a platform for inspiration," a consequence of creating a social engagement model around images. "It leans more toward wanting to buy things," he added.

Whereas people on Facebook and Twitter may balk at being pitched products while they're sharing life moments or discussing current events, Pinterest users are already in buy mode when they visit the site. Facebook and Twitter have "tried their hand at ecommerce" with less than impressive results, said Rekuc.

Guys are digging Pinterest, too, said Rekuc. Men are the fastest-growing demographic, having doubled in 2014. Currently, men represent one-third of new "Pinners," and in emerging markets, men and women are signing up in equal numbers.

And while it may be a while before Pinterest's buy button arrives, Rekuc said that small business can begin to engage with potential customers today.

Keys to Pinterest Success: Images, Action, Engagement

The secret to successful Pin is "pinning lighter images," said Rekuc. Ripen's research shows that people will repin brighter, well-lit images 20 times more than shadowy pictures. Taller images fare better as well, he added. In fact, they are shared 67 percent more times than squat ones.

A consistent call to action is also crucial, said Rekuc. Promotional pins and other calls to action should not only point to the merchant's website, but also lead directly to the specific discount, promotion or perk. Similarly, a post that showcases a particular item "needs to link through to your product" to increase the chances of a successful sale.

Finally, follow Nordstrom's example. Pinterest rewarded the high-end retailer with a legion of fans because the company embraced Pinners in its physical stores.

At Nordstrom, shoppers can spy the telltale icon as they explore its swanky goods. The high-end retailer crowns in-store items that are popular on Pinterest with the site's logo, reinforcing the notion that Nordstrom listens and that engagement matters.

Incidentally, it helps Pinterest loyalists quickly identify the products that likely inspired their trip to the store. Boutiques and small businesses that run brick-and-mortar shops can do this, too, said Rekuc. The aim is to encourage "your existing customer base to engage with you" and bring together the physical and digital worlds in ways that make both consumers and store owners happy.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of IT-related websites and as the Green IT curator for GigaOM Pro. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE

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