March 4, 2016, 11:57 AM

Pinterest’s buyable pins help lure new sales and customers

Buyable pins, which let consumers buy products directly within a pin, are only available within iOS and Android mobile apps. But they’ll soon be available on the web, Pinterest says.

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Pinterest’s buyable pins are helping consumers discover new brands, leading to incremental sales for some online retailers. Merchants getting a bump are using the social network’s pins that let consumers buy products directly within a pin while in the Pinterest mobile app.

For example, more than 90% of the purchases made from buyable pins from multichannel retailer Gardeners Supply Co. are from customers new to the brand, says Max Harris, vice president of e-commerce. At 9-month-old online-only artisan products retailer FlyAway BlueJay, nearly all the customers who have used buyable pins are new, says Holly Feld, the brand’s owner.

Buyable pins similarly can help other retailers attract new customers, says Michael Yamartino, Pinterest’s head of commerce.

“We have over 100 million users on our platform,” he says. “Almost no retailer has 100 million customers. Just looking at the math, most people on Pinterest haven’t shopped from any particular retailer.” If Pinterest can help consumers find new products and brands, he says, it will have a very powerful e-commerce platform.

Yamartino cautions that it is still early days for buyable pins, which the social network rolled out in June. While there are 60 million buyable pins on Pinterest posted by more than 10,000 brands, the social network is trying to figure out how to unleash their potential, he says. For example, in December Pinterest began sending notification emails to shoppers when a buyable pin they’ve saved drops in price.

“Last we year we were focused on building out the platform,” he says. “This year we want to make sure the shopping experience is terrific. That means finding more ways to connect users to relevant products.”

To start, Pinterest plans to bring buyable pins—available only within iOS and Android mobile apps—to the web. That reflects the social network’s recognition that consumers are more likely to make a purchase on a desktop computer. During the recent holiday season, for example, Adobe Systems Inc. reported that the average conversion rate on a desktop was 2.97%, on a tablet 2.8% and on a smartphone only 1.7%.

Pinterest is developing tools that let it understand when users are most likely to be in the market to make a purchase so the social network  can present those consumers with buyable pins. It is also working to improve its understanding of the buyable pins on its platform to be able to distinguish, for example, between sandals and boots, as well as specific types of sandals and boots.

“These are complicated problems to solve,” Yamartino says. “It requires us to understand a lot of different signals. But when we figure them out, we’ll have an extremely powerful discovery engine.”

Harris, of Gardener’s Supply, says buyable pins have produced significant results. Since it began using buyable pins in July, the retailer’s traffic and orders from Pinterest—either directly on the platform or via referral traffic—has roughly doubled.

“Buyable pins are driving sales directly on Pinterest, but they’re also driving some people to click through to our website,” he says. Moreover, those shoppers who click through from a buyable pin are more apt to buy; while about half of the site’s traffic from Pinterest stems from buyable pins, those consumers account for 80% of Pinterest-referred orders.

FlyAway BlueJay reports similar results. Before the retailer began using buyable pins, it received a decent amount of traffic from Pinterest but few sales. Since it began using buyable pins, shoppers clicking on buyable pins account for about 28% of the site’s traffic and 20% of its sales.

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