March 13, 2013, 1:04 PM

Pinterest lets retailers dig into what shoppers are ‘pinning’

The social network rolls out an analytics program.

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Pinterest has rolled out Pinterest Web Analytics, a series of tools that give retailers and other web site owners a glimpse into how their content is being consumed on the social network.

Pinterest is the social network where consumers can ‘pin’ and share favorite products and images from around the web. Those pins are often accompanied by a brief description or caption that appears below an image of the pinned item. Consumers then gather pins on a board on Pinterest.com. Boards are organizational tools that brands and users use to gather pins together around a particular theme—for example, “Problem Solvers: products, ideas & tips that help solve common household problems.”

The tools enable businesses, including e-retailers and consumer brands, to track how many consumers have pinned content from their sites, how many have clicked from Pinterest to their sites and how many consumers have seen those pins on the social network. Web site owners will also be able to see their most-pinned and most-clicked pins.

The idea, says Pinterest software engineer Tao Tao, is to give businesses a better sense of what consumers respond to on the social network. For example, an apparel retailer will be able to see that a lot of consumers have clicked on and pinned a particular style of shirt. It can then use that information to highlight those items in its other marketing materials, as well as for crafting future collections.

The tools are available to pages that feature a verification badge, which means the social network has verified that the accountholder represents the brand. The verification process is part of the sign-up process for the social network’s accounts designated specifically for marketers.

By releasing its own free analytics tools, Pinterest is enabling web site owners looking for basic data points to avoid having to pay to work with social marketing analytics vendors such as Curalate and Pinfluencer. (Curalate says it has a broad pricing range, though on average most brands pay roughly $1,000 a month for its tools. Pinfluencer gave no immediate comment).

However, those vendors offer more robust tools. For instance, both Curalate and Pinfluencer enable marketers to see how consumers categorize items on their own boards. Daily Grommet, which works with Curalate, has found that tool helpful in understanding how consumers view its products. For example, while the e-retailer might think an item like a Cuppow—a top that turns a mason jar into a travel mug—is something a shopper would buy for herself, it has found that many shoppers pin the item to boards that, based on their names, seem to be designed to collect gift ideas, says Tori Tait, Daily Grommet’s senior community manager. The retailer uses that type of insight to inform its marketing materials—for instance, how it promotes Cuppow.

Pinterest's release of Pinterest Web Analytics may forecast a move toward monetizing premium analytics services. The social network says it plans to add new tools and more detailed insights in the coming months.

While many retailers are finding that Pinterest can help drive traffic to their sites, 45.9% of retailers do not have a presence on the 2-year-old social network, according to a survey in the 2013 edition of the Social Media 300. The guide gives a comprehensive analysis of 300 e-retailers’ social commerce strategies and ranks retailers’ social skills on the percentage of web site traffic that they receive from social networks.

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