Ecommerce Technology Pinterest

Pinterest UK boss on its e-commerce development: ‘Brands are a natural insert’


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

December 15, 2020 | 5 min read

Pinterest has long carved its niche away from the most common benefactors of digital ad spend, and in 2020, its efforts to be the shopping destination of at-home audiences finally paid off. Milka Kramer, country manager of Pinterest UK & IE, explains why brands should be paying attention to her ecosystem.


Pinterest UK boss on its ecommerce development: ‘Brands are a natural insert’

2020 marked the year that most people moved from a doing mindset to a planning one, and few places better serve that desire than Pinterest. In July, Pinterest topped 400 million monthly active users for the first time, citing a large growth in gen Z, and men. Christmas planning also started three months early claims its country manager for the UK and Ireland, Milka Kramer, with a surge three months earlier in May. Around this time, it started upping its pursuit of media budgets, having breached $1bn in revenue for the first time.

This was all before Kramer joined from Microsoft Bing a few months ago. Since then, she’s learned how “unique” Pinterest’s audience is. It is a bigger audience than Twitter and Snapchat's. She’s now on the charm offensive to onboard brands, but how?

Kramer first says that Pinterest is not a social media, it isn’t (or shouldn’t) be in the same spend pool as Facebook or Twitter she says. It is a visual search engine, it looks to bite into that spend, and the booming e-commerce spend too.

She says: “Our audiences don't come here to talk about the news of the day, or to engage with their friends or to talk. They are thinking and dreaming about what's possible in the future.

“It's positioned as an aspirational place. Users pin products, often around life events like weddings and birthdays. We saw more of this during the lockdown, people had to get creative in how they adapted, usage increased by it for recipes, workouts, work or even positivity quotes.

“Pinterest is a natural place for persuasion she believes. “Brands are a natural insert into the platform… online shopping for so long has been about knowing what you are looking for. We want to make it more inspirational and replicate real store experiences.”

The “magic of advertising” is welcome by Pinterest users, she says. They want to be persuaded and guided. For brands, there are a few ways to do this, ad formats include promoted video, shopping ads, carousels and single image slots.

“Our audience come with intent, they're looking for something in life, they’re looking for information. But they have not made up their mind on what exactly they're going to buy.”

And that’s why 2020 was a big year for the organization. In May, it partnered with D2C e-commerce provider Shopify to make it easier for one million merchants to upload their catalogues into product pins, its shoppable product. This was a free service, and an increasingly appealing one.

It claims that the number of ‘Pinners’ who engaged with shoppable pins increased 44% year-over-year (up to April 2020). In that time it said it drove 230% more retail traffic.

It’s why John Lewis, the UK retailer, came aboard to take over two trends that Pinterest identified. These were baubles and festive table settings (interest was up 61% and 180% year-year respectively). These are displayed in 10 shoppable Carousel ads. It is the first UK brand to feature on its Trend Badge, an ad solution that lets advertisers buy into its most-searched trends, sort of like Twitter’s Sponsored Trends – but more visuals as well as being directly shoppable.

You should be able to buy everything on Pinterest, and if you can’t, we should find you something very similar to it," she explains.

And that brings us to visual search, which will make or break its reinvention of the print catalogue. The ideal is to have users upload or scan pics of scenes (picture a household) they like, and using the software to identify and shop individual (or lookalike) products.

As the high street reopens in 2021 (in some form) Pinterest will hope its impressive new audience sticks around, as of November, it saw a 50% monthly active user increase across its international markets, year on year. Searches were up more than 60% year on year too.

So for the coming charm offensive, Kramer says: “We need to push our unique user mindset, they are coming to us without having made a purchase decision”… yet. The journey continues, Pinterest looks to invest in better discovery tools and make it easier for brands to get their stock onto the service. 800 have done it so far, including Topshop, John Lewis, and Trouva.

Here’s the killer stat Kramer pushes, 83% of Pinterest users say they made a purchase based on content they saw from brands on there. Only 97% of the “top searches” on Pinterest were unbranded.

There's an opportunity here - if brands can adopt the mindset of the platform.

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