Pinterest Case Study: “Seeking beautiful experience while shopping”

If you are responsible for marketing an online store to women 25 – 54 and you have a visual story to tell, Pinterest could be your new secret weapon.  Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that allows users to “pin” images (like a bulletin board) into various categories, and see, comment on, and borrow the images other people pin.

A handful of brands have jumped into Pinterest in a big way (Lands End, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, HGTV, Real Simple magazine) and some good success stories are beginning to emerge.  More brands are likely to follow after last week’s Traffic Referral Report from Shareholic showing that Pinterest is now driving more referral traffic on the web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn combined.

Since one of our Social Snap clients is an online store with a highly visual product line, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at Pinterest’s impact and see how the Shareholic numbers stack up IRL.

Pinterest drives traffic AND transactions for online store Perpetual Kid


First, a little background:  Our client, Perpetual Kid, is an online store selling products that “entertain your inner child”.   The company’s product line is made for social media (funny, colorful, and highly talkable) and the staff happily engages with customers in many creative ways (like drawing a picture on the box an item is shipped in or sending a personalized valentine to a customer’s chosen recipient).

In 2011, Perpetual Kid began to gain organic exposure on Pinterest.  Customers pinned pictures of Perpetual Kid’s products on Pinterest, as well as pictures that had been drawn on shipping boxes by the staff.  Traffic trickled in slowly; in the summer of 2011, Pinterest was driving only 0.20% of Perpetual Kid’s total traffic.  But by December, that number had increased to 1% and by January — after Perpetual Kid began participating in the pinning fun –it was up to 2.63%.

Pinterest’s referral traffic to is below the average referral numbers reported by Shareholic (see the Shareholic chart above) and while it is not outpacing Facebook (as it is for Real Simple magazine), it consistently drives more traffic than several other leading social media sites.

But if Pinterest traffic is interesting, Pinterest sales are the real story for Perpetual Kid. Unlike the traffic from many social sites in Perpetual Kid’s marketing mix, Pinterest traffic puts up some strong “last click” conversion numbers.  While Facebook currently has a greater share of social media transactions on, Pinterest traffic converts to a sale at more than twice the rate of Facebook traffic. If Pinterest’s traffic to the site continues to increase as it has done in recent weeks, Pinterest will soon overtake Facebook in its share of transactions.



But…WHY is this happening?

So what’s behind the Pinterest phenomenon?  Why the explosive growth in traffic referrals, and for Perpetual Kid, actual sales?

Several factors are likely driving Pinterest’s overnight debut as a serious traffic driver.  First, critical mass:  Pinterest achieved a critical mass of users quickly (the reasons for this are numerous, not the least of which is its connection with Facebook users).  Ten million unique users per month is a powerful base from which to drive traffic.

Second, lower barriers to building reach (pay attention here frustrated Facebook marketers!): Brands do not have to be connected to a user in order to expose their content to that user, so it is much easier for a brand to build reach quickly on Pinterest than it is on a site like Facebook (where paid ads or a viral home run are becoming the only path to scalable reach).

Third, Pinterest is reportedly monetizing the site by making money as an affiliate.  If this is true, doing everything they can to drive traffic out to ecommerce sites is in Pinterests’ best interest (which means that getting reach/exposure on Pinterest is going to continue to be easier and more straightforward than it is on Facebook).

On to the conversion question: Why would Pinterest traffic be converting for Perpetual Kid at twice the rate of Facebook traffic?


Think of Pinterest as a Stella and Dot trunk show on steroids.

Stella and Dot is a jewelry brand that sells only through trunk shows, held in private homes (Cabi clothing is another example).  Women (who represent over half of Pinterest’s traffic) attend trunk shows like these for several reasons:  We get to look at fun and beautiful jewelry, see how it can be worn, see what our friends are buying, find gifts, meet new friends and get others’ opinions on what is hot, “in” or unique in some way, chat with each other about all manner of things that don’t have anything directly to do with what is being sold at the show – it’s a happy combination that puts us in the mood to buy.

This is the Pinterest environment — and it is fundamentally different from the purpose of Facebook, which is primarily to connect with existing friends (and for many, to do a bit of personal branding).  In other words, Pinterest provides a powerful, visual experience of beautiful and/or entertaining things, trends (unique, funny, fashionable, new), and a dose of connection to old and new friends with interesting tastes and hobbies.  It’s no big surprise that Pinterest traffic converts.

So…if you haven’t done so already, dig into your Analytics and take a look at what Pinterest might be doing for you.


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4 Responses to Pinterest Case Study: “Seeking beautiful experience while shopping”

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  2. Bailey says:

    I think it’s an interesting point to consider how Facebook may convert to a larger number of sales for your company while Pinterest converts to less sales but at a twice the rate of Facebook. So, even though Pinterest doesn’t generate as many sales as Facebook, it generates them more quickly. Definitely an indication of Pinterest’s potential. I also like how Pinterest can be used as a social media analytic. How many times something is repinned or purchased through Pinterest is an easy indication of how effective a company’s social media campaign is.

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  4. Rajeev says:

    Not a big surprise there, socail traffic doesn’t click ads, BUT it can be quite useful for a couple of other things like getting real people to your website that you might or might not convert into subscribers, sign up to your email list etc or for attracting natural backlinks if they bookmark you as a resource and refer to you later from their own sites. I am experimenting around with Pinterest myself at the moment and so far the biggest plus is that I can organize my bookmarks in a more visual way, something that suits me.

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