Pinterest recently announced its users can now track the number of people pinning content from their sites, the popularity of their site content with "pinners" and a whole lot more through its new Pinterest Web Analytics feature.
Pinterest joins YouTube, LinkedIn and other social network sites in making this kind of useful demographic information available to marketers and merchants. But for online sellers, the announcement of Pinterest Web Analytics was actually a "mixed bag," as you'll see.
Like 'dandelions in the spring'
First, let's get one thing straight: Pinterest is hugely important to people trying to indirectly sell products or further establish their brands through social commerce.
Consider its growth. In the State of the Media 2012 Social Media Report, Nielsen ranked the top social networks in terms of year-to-year growth. Google+, impressively, was up 80 percent. MySpace was down 13 percent. And Pinterest? Up 1,047 percent! And no, it didn't get its start in 2012. It was founded in 2010.
Pinterest is the 35th busiest website in the world, according to Alexa. In the U.S., it ranks No. 14
Alexa, a leading provider of Web metrics, reports Pinterest is the 35th busiest website in the world. In the U.S., it ranks No. 14.
Interestingly, Alexa also points out that "Pinterest.com appeals more to Caucasians; its visitors also tend to consist of childless, moderately educated women between the ages of 25 and 35 who have incomes over $30,000."
So Pinterest is popular, and it's growing like dandelions in spring. But it also sends big spenders to retail sites.
As Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group and author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, points out to us, a study published late last year from consulting firm RichRelevance found that "Pinterest drives larger orders—nearly double that of other social channels. While shoppers who come to retail sites from Facebook and Twitter purchase more often, Pinterest users spend dramatically more than either ($168.83 average order value versus $94.70 for Facebook and $70.84 for Twitter)."
While these figures show just how significant Pinterest has become, from the outset it's been clear Pinterest can be "a valuable tool for retailers to help spread images of their offerings," according to social media expert Suzi Istvan of Social Suzi Designs.
"The very smart sellers may have tried to analyze the kinds of items that were getting 'pinned' and adjusted inventory or marketing accordingly," she says. "Others will have noticed traffic coming from Pinterest when they check out their Google Analytics stats."
Kabani thinks Pinterest serves as "the ultimate curation tool, and can be a powerful way to drive traffic for businesses which have a strong visual component—fashion, furniture, retail."
Online sellers will need a verified Pinterest account to access their analytics. Etsy, Amazon and eBay stores cannot be verified
A mixed bag
Now for the mixed bag part. You have to meet a couple of requirements before you can start using the new Pinterest Web Analytics feature.
First, you have to switch to Pinterest's "new look." That's not a big deal. But to do that you'll have to set up a business account on the site—which you should have anyway if you are using Pinterest to build a brand, find new customers or drive traffic to your site.
But this business account must be verified, and that's the issue. As Istvan tells us, "Online sellers will need a verified Pinterest account to access their analytics. Etsy, Amazon and eBay stores cannot be verified."
Pinterest explains it on its site this way, "Unfortunately, if your website isn't a top-level domain, then you won't be able to verify. This means that most e-commerce shop owners can't verify right now."
Now that's a disappointment. Given this, Etsy seller Cathy Stein had some advice for her fellow merchants concerning the new Pinterest Web Analytics feature.
"Don't waste your time trying to figure it out at this point," she says. "I converted my account to a business one yesterday, but because my shop and blog are not top-level domains, I can't verify either of my accounts with Pinterest and have the ability to use their new Web analytics."
Seeing how your potential buyers organize your products and want to incorporate them into their lives provides a goldmine of market research
Sell through your own site?
But we know some of you also sell through your own websites and can therefore make use of Pinterest Web Analytics. So let's explore a bit further how Pinterest Analytics can be used.
"With the new tools offered by Pinterest, sellers will get to see exactly how many people are 'pinning' from their stores, view the trends in what is getting pinned, and (possibly the most useful) see which pins are popular and with who," Istvan says. "This gives sellers a great idea of which products are appealing to which audience, so they can find those key potential customers and market to them, as well as decide which products should be their featured images on Etsy or eBay.
"When sellers see a spike in clicks or pins on a given day, they will only be a few clicks away from looking into what pin caused the flurry of activity," she continues. "Pinterest also provides an unprecedented tour of a seller's target customer's mind by allowing you to explore what other images from around the Web they find interesting and categorize with yours. Seeing how your potential buyers organize your products and want to incorporate them into their lives provides a goldmine of market research and material."
You can look at Pinterest as part of an entire transition in digital marketing, according to Apu Gupta CEO of Curalate, a platform that utilizes advanced image recognition algorithms to make sense of conversations on visual sites.
Gupta says digital marketing is moving from words to images, and notes that 70 percent of social media interactions now involve an image.
Perhaps eBay, Amazon, Etsy and other merchants will be able to use Pinterest Web Analytics in the future. For now, Pinterest Web Analytics provide another good reason to create your own e-commerce site if you have not done so already to further build your brand.