I recently became addicted to Pinterest. My friends and I call it the Pinhole – you start looking at one thing and then hours later you emerge having been taken off on an interesting and amazing journey into topics and pictures you never dreamed of. But, I like it! Its simplicity, its visual impact, its ability to thrill, educate, inspire… all makes me come back wanting more. It’s my guilty pleasure.

During my Pinterest journey, I have been surprised at how slow high street retailers are at embracing Pinterest for their benefit. Let’s take a look at the facts: Pinterest was launched in 2011 and today, it is the 3rd most popular social network, growing by 18% in the past year and has over 70 million users worldwide – of those 80% are women, according to Digital Marketing Ramblings… It’s a prime and ripe audience for retailers to engage with – or so you would think!

But, of all of those pinners, Econsultancy says that the average person follows only 9.3 retailers. So, why aren’t consumers engaging with retailers on Pinterest? Research carried out by the IBM Institute of Business Value, says that 55% of social network users never engage with brands due to privacy violation (47%), fear of spam (40%) or has a distinct lack of interest (34%).

Today’s digital consumer is connected, has access to many communications channels, has a shorter attention span, has more choice and perspectives, is demanding and wants consistency across all channels.

For retailers to begin engaging with their audience, they must adopt a new marketing mix – it’s out with the 4 Ps and in with SAVE. Solutions, Access, Value, Education and ENGAGEMENT. Retailers must humanise their company brand and join the conversation so that their consumers see them as a trusted peer. In doing this they will gain real value through improving customer responsiveness, enhancing customer needs and wants, stimulating interest, developing new revenue streams and extending reach.

So how do retailers achieve this?

By painting a picture, building the brand, increasing brand awareness, brand equity and brand purpose. By creating a personality, sharing information, hints and tips on fashion and style, advice on how to create an entire look, how to mix tones and colours. By demonstrating transparency, highlighting ethical issues and topics such as sustainable fashion and locally sourced materials. By involving the consumer – let them do the selling through re-pinning images, special offers and user reviews.

Users of Pinterest search for topical and season pins, so retailers should look to maximise holiday periods and seasons by creating seasonal mood boards and boards for Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s day etc. with colour themes, styles and advice. J Crew was the first brand to offer a sneak preview of its autumn range on Pinterest one week before the catalogue was released, encouraging consumers to pre-order any fashion items before they went on sale the following week and just last week were promoting a secret sale, offering a 25% discount for any order placed within 24 hours by using the code: secret.

Boards don’t just have to contain content from the retailer, they can pin and re-pin news, blogs, images etc. from other pinners and commentators, this all adds wider value and relevance, and ultimately increases engagement.

Of course, it’s all about making money and so when retailers do pin products, they must make sure they add a price as images with a price gain 36% more likes than pictures without, according to Shopify. Pinterest is great for reverse showrooming, where a pinner has purchased a product in store after pinning in online. A key element here is consistency. If a retailer is promoting a product online then that product has to be promoted and easy to find in store. Now more than ever it’s critical that the online and in-store experience has synergy.

But let’s not forget to have some fun with what we pin. Run competitions, get pinners to share images of products they’ve bought around a theme or season, offer discounts etc…. All of which builds on the community engagement and further drives sales. An example of a retailer who has embraced this is Ikea, which launched a Pin It to Win It campaign last year.

Above all else, retailers must make sure their pins have relevance, generate engagement and are eye-catching.

Realising the potential for businesses, in November 2012 Pinterest launched its Pinterest for Business pages and today there are roughly 500,000 business pages on Pinterest. Pinterest continues to enhance the offering and is adding new and improved features to help businesses maximise their potential. A great feature for retailers is the Pinterest Price alerts, which automatically notify a pinner when a product they pinned but didn’t buy is reduced.

As consumption moves beyond transaction more and more consumers will begin embracing retailers that have meaning and personality. Retailers that are already getting to grips with how to use Pinterest to engage with their customers are one step ahead. Make sure you don’t get left behind!

Jo Coxhill is a freelance marketer and founder of Vision 29, which provides marketing strategy, planning and implementation to B2B and B2C companies.

If you would like to speak to Jo about an up-coming project, please contact her at jo.coxhill@vision29.co.uk or by calling 07432 130979.

www.vision29.co.uk