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Retailers that want to stand out on social networks have to keep up with the migratory patterns of online shoppers—and in the past two years, especially in the past few months, that's been to the fledgling social network Pinterest.
Pinterest launched in March 2010, and less than two years later attracted 21.5 million visits in the week ended Jan. 28, 2012—making it the third most-visited social network, according to Experian Hitwise.
E-retailer retailer Gemvara.com only became aware of Pinterest because consumers were talking about and "Pinning" images of Gemvara's custom jewelry on Pinterest boards. But Gemvara is now well aware of Pinterest, which in March accounted for 8.7% of the retailer's traffic, outpacing Twitter, Google+ and every other social network save Facebook, which accounted for 10.7% of Gemvara's traffic, according to Alexa Internet Inc., a unit of Amazon.com Inc. that provides web site traffic and other Internet data. Those Pins are gathered together on the user's Board, the equivalent of an online corkboard, which she can organize and share with friends. Consumers can follow other shoppers and see their Boards; that can help consumers discover brands or products.
Gemvara now pays a lot of attention to Pinterest. A few times each day, Gemvara's community experience designer, Melissa Lacitignola, or one of her colleagues creates a Board that showcases how shoppers can customize Gemvara's products. For instance, its Board "Mother's Day!" shows how using different birthstones can transform the look of a ring.
Even though consumers cannot buy directly from Pinterest, being visible on the social network gets the word out about Gemvara, says Brian Kalma, Gemvara's chief experience officer. "What we're trying to do is foster inspiration for those who aren't in the jewelry-buying mindset," he says. "It's less about sales and more about awareness. We're communicating that not only do we sell jewelry but that our jewelry is customizable."
That messaging seems to be working, based on the strong traffic from Pinterest. But it's not easy to hold consumers' attention on social media; it's much easier for merchants' posts to get lost in the never-ending torrent of comments and posts. Retailers like Wal-Mart that are investing in figuring out what will pique the interest of social shoppers are betting that what they learn today will pay off in sales tomorrow.