Angela Southall
Angela Southall 21 June 2017

Pinterest: 3 Reasons it Could Now be Retail's Perfect Bedfellow.

For the past few years, Pinterest has been in the shadows of the likes of Facebook and Instagram when it comes to advertising. With a slew of new features and 110m+ active users, perhaps now it has come of age for retailers.

Pinterest initially burst onto the social media scene to great fanfare a few years ago, introducing a new and intuitive way for people to save and curate their favourite things.

It duly (and rapidly) built a loyal user base that’s still going strong today. But on the marketing and advertising side, while big hitters such as Facebook, Instagram and Google have developed sophisticated targeted advertising and ecommerce options for brands, Pinterest has fallen by the wayside.

However, Pinterest have been playing serious catch-up in recent months. A slew of new features have been rolled out aimed at untapping the social network’s latent potential for closer ecommerce integration. And brands have started to sit up and take note.

In our view, Pinterest has the potential to become a real ecommerce and referral marketing force. Let’s run through some of the main reasons why...

Pinterest already went hand-in-hand with retail — now it’s in bed with it

A quick glance at some of Pinterest’s most popular board categories tells you a lot:

  • Fashion (300 million boards)
  • Food and drink (180 million)
  • Home decor (130 million)

They mirror retail industry verticals, for the obvious reason: Pinterest usage is a lead-in to shopping.

According to a report from Mary Meeker, 55 percent of Pinterest’s 110 million active users are there to search and connect with products. In other words, the average Pinterest user is looking to shop. In comparison, just 12 percent of Facebook and Instagram traffic use those channels for the same purpose.

Pinterest usage is pretty systematic. The average user session looks something like:

  • searches and browses for items of interest.  
  • saves (‘pins’) and groups items of interest (pin boards) for later reference.

In effect, Pinterest is a uniquely potent channel for ecommerce retailers, deftly serving the first two stages of the traditional customer purchase funnel: awareness and consideration.

It comes as little surprise then, that Pinterest has been ramping up efforts to more directly integrate ecommerce retailers into the user experience.

It’s already partnered with more than 20,000 merchants, bringing in more than 10 million unique products onto the platform. And it’s also created the Pinterest Shop, where in-house and guest editors curate the best items and trends within each key retail vertical.

Buyable pins and shopping bags — an ecommerce gamechanger

If any social network seems made for the growing trend in shoppable content, it’s Pinterest. The platform recently introduced its Buyable pins feature — which as the name suggests, gives users the ability to purchase items featured within pins at the click of a CTA button.

Pinterest Buy Buttons


The platform has even introduced a shopping bag feature — allowing users to add multiple buyable pin items, review their order and check out when they’re ready to purchase. Just as you’d expect from any ecommerce store.

Technically, Pinterest hasn’t become a fully fledged ecommerce store. It doesn’t handle any of the shipping or customer experience. It’s acting as a mediator and customer referral system of sorts for the retailer. 

With these simple additions, Pinterest has become capable of serving all stages of the customer’s buying journey — not only moving users along the awareness and consideration stages of the funnel, but now through to the actual purchase decision too. That makes it a pretty powerful player in the ecommerce world.

New search and discovery functions complete the ecommerce experience

To top everything off, Pinterest has evolved its search to further mimic the customer experience of an ecommerce store.

First of all, it’s introduced brand profiles — which essentially allows retailers to set up mini stores within Pinterest. A customer can now search out a specific brand, visit their profile, and be presented with a range of filtering options, including popular products and special offers. Just the kind of thing you’d expect to find on the brand’s own main website.

And then there’s the impressive advancement in Pinterest’s visual search, which has opened up more spontaneous discovery of buyable products. Users can now zoom in on any pin and, via automatic object detection, be presented with a range of relevant pins, including buyable products that may be of interest. For example, a user may zoom in on a table they like the look of — and be presented with a range of visual search results that match that style.


There’s little doubt that Pinterest has seriously upped its game. As retailers cotton on to its powerful latest features, we predict that Pinterest will increasingly grow its stature as an ecommerce force to be reckoned with.

 This post was previously featured on the Mention Me Referral Marketing Blog

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