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Is Pinterest the New Darling of Retail Search?

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For more than the past year, there has been a lot of discussion on the war for retail searchers that has broken out between Google and Amazon. Performance marketers have flocked to Google's new Product Listing Ads (PLA) channel to drive cost-effective sales and reduce their dependency on Amazon.

However, a major competitor has perhaps been overlooked in this battle for shopper attention: Pinterest. With a combination of product visuals, social curation, and a wealthier, more aspirational shopper, Pinterest seems ready to throw its hat in the ring. This article will examine the rapid rise of Pinterest as a user engagement platform and an emerging marketing platform for retailers.

User Engagement

Pinterest has now surpassed e-mail and is the third most popular way to share content online, behind only Twitter and Facebook. With that much content being shared by users, Pinterest is a treasure trove of data around design ideas, the newest hairstyles, travel destinations, and most importantly, what to wear right now.

It's only a matter of time before search behavior starts shifting aggressively to follow this content. Case in point – the difference is pretty stark when doing a search for [summer dress for wedding] on Google vs. Pinterest.

Google search results for summer dress for wedding

While Google has now incorporated PLAs at the top of the page, the listings are small and truncated, followed by the ubiquitous series of blue links.

Pinterest results for summer dress for wedding

On the Pinterest side there are big, bold images, social commentary, as well as the option to share with friends and family.

Google actually will play catch up here to make its pages more social and engaging. While comScore has yet to track overall search activity on Pinterest, in its core categories of fashion, design, and food, Pinterest is generating some serious volume. If only marketers could get more of their offerings front and center on this emerging platform.

Enter Rich Pins and Promoted Pins, two new offerings in Pinterest's ultimate monetization strategy.

Marketer Opportunity

With Rich Pins, any retailer with a product feed can now attach real-time pricing, inventory availability, location, and a "buy this" link to all of their product pins. The feature also creates new pins for all of those products that don't already live on the site, ensuring participants in this program a degree of search-ability on the site.

The feed format required by Pinterest is actually quite simple and allows for performance tracking within your own analytics system so that marketers can start to understand the importance of this channel to their bottom line. Some early adopter brands include Nordstrom, Disney, Tresemme, and Four Seasons.

Recently, Pinterest began testing their Promoted Pins offering, which should be a popular channel for PPC advertisers. By integrating sponsor products into search results and category pages, Pinterest is seeking to create an ad channel that is both akin to popular channels such as Facebook and Google from an ad buyer's standpoint, as well as one that is perfectly native to shopper. While the program is only in early beta, retailers should be pressing to get on board as early as possible.

Predictions for 2014

Given the huge user growth and investment in site experience and monetization, 2014 is fixing to be a huge year for Pinterest. Both online shoppers and retail advertisers would be remiss to ignore it this year.

The company is already valued at $4 billion but due to the sheer volume of retail sales the site is driving at an astronomical AOV, this is a property that could be a crown jewel for one of the leading search engines, social networks, or ecommerce properties. They are going to have to pay up, though.


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