Pinterest: Picture perfect profits

Published on: Sep 25, 2013

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” goes the old saying. But how about a thousand dollars? Retailers might be asking that question as they attempt to drum up more sales by posting pictures of their merchandise on Pinterest, the social network.

You might want to look into Pinterest as a viable marketing tool for your own store’s merchandise. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself: “not another social network to learn!” And that’s understandable: You no doubt have your work cut out for you keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and other Internet pipelines to your customers.

Even so, Pinterest has some features that make it especially valuable as a retailer’s marketing tool.

What is Pinterest? Imagine a public bulletin board where people post photos of merchandise they like. Now imagine other people, interested in the same categories of merchandise, clicking on the photos and being directed to the website where the items are for sale. That website can be yours. It figures that you want to generate as much traffic as possible between Pinterest and your offerings.

Retailer’s friend

As the above comments suggest, the illustrative nature of Pinterest is a great way to extend your store’s local allure into a nationwide attraction.

“Pinterest is a visual site, and most retailers are more visual than the average bear,” says Gene Marks, who runs a technical consulting firm in the Philadelphia area (genemarks.com). “Retailers deal with merchandise. They draw people into their stores with displays. Why not do the same with Pinterest?”

Here’s some good news: You don’t have to spend lots of time and effort getting started. In fact, your first step is a pretty simple one: Post a “Pin It” button on your website. “A button will encourage visitors to ‘pin’ your photos on Pinterest,” says Cynthia Sanchez, a social media consultant in Ft. Worth, Texas (ohsopinteresting.com). “You don’t even have to be an active Pinterest user.”

It’s true that people can pin photos of your merchandise on their own initiative, but a Pin It button makes the task a one-step procedure. “As business owners we know the best way to attract more customers is make a purchase easy,” says Sanchez. “Why make visitors take extra steps?”

And there’s another benefit to a button: It can encourage action from reluctant visitors. “If there isn’t a button some visitors will feel uncomfortable pinning your photos,” cautions Sanchez. “They may say to themselves, ‘this retailer may not want me to use their photos elsewhere.’”

You can also encourage pins by including a “call to action” adjacent to your Pin It button. This can be a statement such as “Feel free to share our photos on Pinterest.” Again, this will encourage those visitors who hesitate to Pin, thinking you might not want them to take your photos off site.

Bonus tip: You can find the code required for a Pin It button at business.pinterest.com. Look for the “Pin It button” entry under “Tools.”

Powerful pictures

You don’t have to rely on your customers to post photos of your merchandise. You can get the ball rolling by posting on your own. But how can you make your pictures stand out against the thousands of offerings from other retailers?

The secret is to make sure your images are what Sanchez calls “pinnable.” That means using attractive colors and focusing on features that make your items stand out. Study the most attractive, eye-catching photos on the site. How can you present your merchandise in a similar way?

Avoid a cluttered look that becomes even less attractive when your photos are reduced to the thumbnail size required by Pinterest. All else being equal, think “less is more.” Close in on what’s really eye-catching about your merchandise.

Avoid static pictures of items absent context, says Denver-based SEO consultant Heather Lutze, a Denver based search engine optimization (SEO) consultant (findability.com). She calls such pictures “ghost town photos” because they lack a human context. “Think about the impact your picture will make,” says Lutze. “Try to replicate what life will be like for the consumer after a purchase.  Show a customer interacting with the item, holding it, smiling, relaxing in a comfortable environment.”

A great visual presence is not the only element of a successful post. Scan a few pages of Pinterest and you’ll see lots of text in the form of captions attached to photos. That’s important, because carefully written captions help photos rise to the top of the results page when Pinterest visitors search for a term.

Some photos have captions, others have text overlays. Experiment with each. “People tend to scan Pinterest images so text overlays go a long way toward helping visitors understand what each picture is about,” says Sanchez.

Caption writing is an art. Uncover powerful key words by studying what other retailers are using. Search for the same term or phrase that your customers are likely to use. Then look at the results. How have the captions of the top line photos been worded? Emulate what you see.

Bonus tip: Consider branding each of your images with your store logo.

Your store page

Once you have completed the basics, as outlined above, you may want to take the next step and launch your own Pinterest page.  “Signing up for Pinterest is easy,” says Marks. “The site takes you through a wizard. Go to the site and sign up as a user. It’s no more difficult than setting up a Facebook page.”

Why do so? Your loyal visitors will appreciate one spot to see all the merchandise you offer. And your own page will be exclusive—meaning that your presentation will not be diminished by pictures from competing merchants. Setting up a business page will also allow you to use Pinterest’s analytics. That will provide you with valuable feedback on how many people are responding to your photos.

One caveat: Do not “push sales.” Instead, encourage repeat visitors by creating a page that offers real information. “The most popular retailers on Pinterest are those who provide additional value,” says Sanchez. Post pictures with captions that tease readers with offers of useful information available on your website.

Make it fun

As the comments above suggest, a successful Pinterest presence means more than just advertising your wares. “Don’t just post tons of pictures,” says Lutze.  Consider creating a board that is fun or quirky. Maybe even include amusing quips about your products. “Create boards so that people will see your business as a personality.”

Avoid moving too quickly and not budgeting the time and effort required to create an effective Pinterest presence. “Successful Pinterest sites are active and current and have a lot of human resources devoted to them,” says Marks. “You need to invest in a person to make sure the thing is clicking. Otherwise nothing will happen. It’s the same for all social media sites but it especially applies to Pinterest.”

Despite the challenge, creating a dynamic and fun Pinterest site will spark more sales for your store, says Marks. “If you are a retailer and you sell to consumers and you have visual stuff to sell, Pinterest is a potential untapped community to attract customers.”