Since it launched in March 2010, social networking website Pinterest has risen meteorically unlike any social media website before it. In 2011 Pinterest was listed as one of the top ten social networking sites in the world in terms of web traffic, pushing more referral traffic to retailers than any other site including LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google+ (not bad for a website that is only 2 years old). According to ComScore, Pinterest registered 11.7 million unique visitors in the month of January 2012, and currently holds the record for being the fastest website ever to account for over 10 million unique visitors. To put it simply, Pinterest is emerging as a social trend that cannot be ignored.
So, what is Pinterest exactly? Pinterest is a social networking site that allows users to post and organize pictures on their own personal page (akin to posting pictures of friends and family to a pin up board at home). Users can organize sections of their page to reflect their interests, ambitions, inspirations, and all around personal life. According to their official website, Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting” via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing. Pinterest allows its users to share ‘pins’ on both Twitter and Facebook, which allows users to share and interact with a broad community”2. Since its arrival on the scene, Pinterest has been used by multiple companies around the globe for creative marketing schemes in what has been another giant push towards e-commerce as the future for business. The following are two examples of this:
Kotex Women’s Inspiration Day: Smoyz (Israeli Creative Agency) introduced a creative way for brands to use Pinterest. They found 50 ‘inspiring’ women by looking at what they were ‘pinning’ on Pinterest. Then, the brand sent the women each a virtual gift. If the recipient pinned the gift, she then got a real one in the mail that was based on something she had previously pinned. Smoyz, the agency behind the effort, claims nearly 100% of the women posted something about their gift, not only on Pinterest, but also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.3
Honda Pintermission: This was a campaign that gave out $500 to five of the most active pinners (through data gleaned from Mashable) and told them to take a 24-hour break from pinning. Instead, Honda encouraged these users to go outside and spend a day actually doing what they were only pinning before. They were to then share images from their day on the Honda Pinterest page. It was a great way to encourage brand followers to enjoy life and created some real online buzz for Honda.4
Pinterest not only provides a platform for creative marketing but also helps create a direct and most importantly a simple consumer producer relationship.
Like its counterparts Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest has recently had the honor of becoming cloned in China. According to the BBC, Pinterest has 20 official Chinese clones widely used in Mainland China. Much like Facebook’s clone Renren and Twitter’s various Chinese equivalents weibo, Pinterest clones have copied its basic layout and user functions and created a new website, all in Chinese, hence “clone”.
Unlike the West however, these Chinese clones have realized the relatively untapped potential of the Pinterest format. Major online relators such as Alibaba have already begun to create their own Pinterest like social networking sites to promote the buying and selling of their products. On their popular Pinterest-style website Fa Xian, users are given the ability to buy and sell any product posted on the website from either Taobao or Tmall. This strategy allows shoppers to be subtly engaged in browsing products while still in a friendly and unassuming environment. So far this formula has worked for the clones. For example, according to Mogujie, a leading Pinterest clone that caters specifically to female clientele, their site has “quickly grown to have 9.5 million registered users by the end of last month, of whom 2.2 million are active daily visitors who browse about 750,000 items on Taobao every day, and end up buying 60,000 of those.” Whether these numbers are valid or not, they still give a small glimpse to the potential of combining Pinterest and online retail into one unique social networking experience.
Other Chinese Pinterest clones such as Pinfun and Huaban both neglect the option to directly link products that are “pinned,” to online stores, yet the marketing and commerce potential remains the same. This set of clones gives you a simple layout with a free flow arrangement to browse pictures allowing users and non-users alike to scroll through endless amounts of posts that are all made public much like the original Pinterest. This creates an incredible opportunity for bored Internet users to stumble upon a product without feeling manipulated by a company. Essentially, it’s free advertising in the most private of places, a person’s home(page). In addition to scrolling aimlessly, these websites allow users to browse through things that are tagged with certain keywords such as “fashion” where all they see are pictures related to fashion. This gives designers and clothes manufacturers a non-intrusive way to showcase their products, which is the biggest selling point of these websites as marketing tools, and gives consumers that would otherwise never visit one of their stores the chance to view their products and brands in an unassuming and respectful way.
The reason these types of websites are successful is because they have created an entertaining and creative way for online commercial transactions. While most people do not spend hours on one website lazily clicking for products, the Pinterest style of website allows users to search through a waterfall like layout which combines social networking and online shopping. With these websites you aren’t simply looking for things to buy, you are looking through friends’ and families profiles to see what they have “pinned” (indicating that they draw inspiration from a particular dress or shoe), or simply that they find a certain product cool. The bonus is that these Chinese clones give you the option to actually buy that shirt or that dress which your friend pinned directly, thus simplifying the browse > like > purchase dynamic. This adds a completely new dimension to online shopping.
To deem these clones’ visionaries is perhaps disproportionate; however there is no denying that they have set a precedent amongst online retailers. Since Mogujie.com first merged online retail and social networking, clones have popped up everywhere using their layout as the standard format for such ventures. If we are to believe the aforementioned statistic that a site like Mogujie has users who browse “750,000 products a day on Taobao and end up buying 60,000”, then it should be clear that this combination of social networking and e-commerce is a winner and will most likely stay that way for years to come.