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Retailers: What's your Pinterest strategy?

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We have a fresh niche social site to talk about, and its making a huge splash. Last week, we saw reports that Pinterest has hit 10 million unique monthly U.S. visits. Reports for the week of January 16, 2012 monitored the site traffic as high as 17 million unique monthly U.S. visits. It's addicting, it's social, and it’s driving tons of site traffic. So what is Pinterest?

What is Pinterest? The millions of people using and visiting Pinterest everyday are there to do one of two things: users can share their favorite things, people, thoughts, or ideas from all over the web on virtual "boards"; and a person can monitor their board's activity or “repin” from the people or brands that they follow. Thanks to a beautiful, constantly refreshing interface, each visit to Pinterest can be equally memorable as it is unique.

What does this mean for retailers? I was still figuring out the proper pronunciation while I started to create boards dedicated to my favorite things.  It’s drawing users in with its simple, yet stunning web design – all empowered with beautiful products and impactful imagery. And, most importantly, it's the talk of the digital world. CNN and Mashable have given the online pinboard a ton of coverage and praise already. As new data continues to emerge showing who is using it and how, Pinterest has quickly developed into the latest-darling of our online world. For retailers, it’s time to watch what users are doing - especially if you are a home improvement, bridal, or high fashion apparel retailer - and then create your first boards. How do Pinterest users want and expect brands to share with them? The power behind Pinterest is the ability to share merchandise with the simple power of visual imagery. I believe that a presence on Pinterest is not about having a particular strategy, but rather all about how we effectively listen and engage with all of our consumers across all kinds of social platforms - from Facebook to niche social bookmarking, such as wish list or web discovery sites like Pinterest, Discoveredd, Svpply, and Nuji. Pinterest itself has identified a number of “best practices” that brands should follow, including pinning on their boards from various sources. Think of complimentary products or design inspiration, repinning from other boards and brand followers, and create multiple boards to cover different topics, interests, products, and inspirations. To jump start your efforts, check out Mashable's list of five ways brands can use Pinterest to boost consumer engagement.

Which retailers already have a presence on Pinterest? Take a peek at how these 13 retailers are using the platform in unique ways for their brands: 

How will sites like Pinterest impact e-commerce specifically? According to Experian Hitwise data shown in an infographic from member Monetate, this social "pinning" website is driving more traffic to U.S. e-commerce sites than Google+. And earlier this month, Mashable posted a study which said total referral traffic from Pinterest now beats YouTube, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace - combined. Pretty impressive for a website that launched and closed beta less than 11 months ago. For niche markets of curators, bakers, brides, home decorators and designers and fashionistas, Pinterest is all the rage. I believe we will continue to see a blending of social sharing and e-commerce sites all over the world - which will push marketers to think beyond the walls of of their website to engage consumers and bring our brands to life. Retailers should be asking:

  • Are we selling products worth sharing? Do we make it easy to share products on sites like Pinterest?
  • Do we have complimentary content like design or decorating tips, fashion inspiration, and/or recipes if we sell products that compliment those products categories?
  • Do we know what our customers like to share online?
  • And most importantly, are we listening - and eventually responding - to customers who post about our products?

The nearly instant (and for now, consistent) growth of a site like Pinterest is another reason for retailers to have their social engagement and e-commerce brand messaging in sync. It's only a matter of time before a retailer creates a dynamic and engaging online pinboard - and the next social sharing darling helps reinvent the way we think about engaging customers. And lastly, retailers should consider taking risks to be where your community is even if those new, niche communities don't become the next Facebook or Twitter. Take risks and make the investment as a part of the cost of doing business in this social, crowdsourcing world we live in.