- Pinterest Trends is a new tool that provides the public with year-round, real-time trend data.
- Its visually driven trends data may be more applicable to predicting purchase behaviour than text-based alternatives.
- Although almost 90 per cent of Pinterest’s users have used it as inspiration for a recent purchase, the platform’s advertising revenue still significantly trails its competitors.
SAN FRANCISCO — Pinterest’s annual list of emerging trends has become an important resource for brands as they develop and market products. Now, the California company is making its trends data even more accessible.
The visual search engine is introducing Pinterest Trends, a new tool that gives public information on top US search terms within the past 12 months and information on when top terms peak. It also shows trending search terms for various topics, just like how Google will suggest specific search keywords. Currently in beta, the tool will roll out in coming weeks and is available to all users year-round.
Pinterest hopes that access to this type of real-time data will help brands improve content for users, and if users are more likely to find something they want to buy, the platform will be increasingly lucrative for advertisers. For example, a marketer might use Pinterest Trends to inform the timing of a product release, or to add a specific colour to a new collection, says Pinterest head of engineering Jeremy King. Or, a brand might use trending topics to promote a product currently in the brand’s assortment, or even tweak an existing ad’s imagery or wording to highlight how the product aligns with a trend.
“If we can help retailers with what the consumer wants, then the consumer gets a better experience,” says Pinterest head of retail strategy and marketing Amy Vener. “That, obviously, makes retailers happy. We’ve had internal access to this data for a while and wanted to find a scalable way to open it up.”
A 320-million strong focus group
Unlike on Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest users are actively searching for what to buy next, versus browsing. And unlike Google, they tend to be specifically focused on shopping and aspirational purchase content. “Pinterest has a very specific context in which people are engaging on the platform. That’s what makes it unique,” says eMarketer principal analyst Andrew Lipsman.
Pinterest argues that this gives marketers a different sort of customer data than what they are accustomed to. “If they can marry the trends insights with past information, it becomes a more built-out view of the consumer,” Vener says. “It’s like the world’s largest focus group.”
For instance, Essie saw that yellow nails were trending on Pinterest, so it amplified the promotion of a yellow product in its new collection. The colour was already on the roadmap, but Pinterest allowed the brand to see the trend emerging earlier, says Essie vice president of marketing Jessie Feinstein.
The brand also uses Google Trends, focus groups and fashion houses for data, but Pinterest helps fill in the blanks since it gives both brands and consumers visual inspiration. For example, Essie created an entire CVS display related to the royal wedding off Pinterest learnings when it was trending on the platform.
Monetising an ad-friendly shopping experience
Pinterest has 320 million users compared to Facebook’s 2.5 billion, and its advertising revenue in the third quarter of 2019 was a fraction of Facebook’s at $279.7 million. But Pinterest is gaining ground: ad sales grew 47 per cent since a year ago. (The company, however, recently missed revenue estimates and its shares are trading below their IPO price.)
Since many Pinterest users are actively looking for goods, they don’t tend to mind ads, says Vener. (Most of the content on Pinterest is from a brand.) By making data more accessible and precise, Pinterest Trends can also assist brands to target customers at specific spots of their journey. Users who pin inspiration images — often stylised images with multiple products — are in early planning stages and less receptive to ads for specific products. However, when they begin saving individual product images, they are much closer to making a purchase and more receptive to ads. Pinterest data also suggests that holiday planning begins as early as July, while after “back to school” season, people look for motivational or health-related content.
Brands already have a sense that customer behaviour on Pinterest is split into different stages. They often upload two separate images of the same product: one may be a stylised editorial image with multiple products in the shot, while the other could be a flat image of a single product, says King.
But although almost 90 per cent of users have used Pinterest as inspiration for a recent purchase, Pinterest often isn’t getting the credit, Lipsman says. The platform contributed to 18 per cent of incremental conversions and revenue for retail, but makes up only 11 per cent of measured media spend, according to Neustar. While it may be a more economical ad buy for brands, Pinterest is currently losing out to platforms that make the return easier to measure.
Emphasis on visual search
Pinterest has invested heavily in visual search, which lets users find shoppable products that are similar to those in an uploaded photo or existing pin even without the vocabulary to articulate what they want. This both captures emerging trends earlier and decreases the time from inspiration to purchase, Vener says.
Visual search on Pinterest is still relatively nascent, and its usage is small compared to text, but it is growing at a faster rate than voice search. This opens up the opportunity for more trends data — and more advertising revenue. “Pinterest can correlate to other things that are visually similar. If brands can start capitalising on visual search and discovery like they have with text-based search, the ability to tie into these trends become much stronger and more relevant to the consumer,” says Vener.
Doubling down on its data-driven strategy is smart, Lipsman says, because it helps brands implement a “tighter feedback loop” in product development. “We see very quickly that the nimble, agile marketers are the ones staying current with consumers and growing, but the ones that are tethered to legacy processes are the ones that are struggling.”
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