Retailers Embrace Pinterest, but Social Strategy Comes First

By | Jun 20, 2012

A recent study by Shopify.com found that users made purchases that averaged $80 from retailers on the Pinterest website, double what Facebook users spend. Retailers point to the importance of the social relationship with the customer and say that the website's visual pins are similar to window shopping, something that might drive sales.

According to an article in The Columbus Dispatch, retailers like The Limited Express and Victoria's Secret have quickly embraced the photo-blogging website and feature thematic boards that mix fashion images with engaging content. It was the analytics that helped push The Limited Express to jump on board, as they saw that pinned content drove customers to their website. And while it may seem like the highly visual photo-social website is tailor-made for retailers to reach their customers, businesses still need to take the time to develop a social media strategy, one that takes into consideration how they want to engage socially and what their goals are. Vicki Cantrell of Shop.org notes, "It's far more important to first evaluate where the customer is and where they want their favorite brands to be and then to react."

For the midsize retailer, the social media options may seem daunting, particularly when marketing and IT budgets are tight and dollars must be spent for largest effect, but IT must be in the loop and part of the business decision-making process when it comes to developing that social media strategy. IT can evaluate what brings customers to the company website, where the customers come from, and what keeps them coming back. IT should also examine new social media sites from the analytical perspective to understand what features they provide and who the target audience is. For example, USA Today reported on a new photo-social site, LoveIt, that recently launched, saying that it had some unique features--such as allowing users to share in small or private groups--and more appeal to men, dubbing it a potential "Pinterest killer." It's unknown as to how LoveIt will fare in future, but it does show the need for businesses to do their due diligence when deciding what social platforms fit into their strategy and which ones are merely hype.

Yet another consideration is how any new social media platforms fit into existing enterprise-level analytics tools that IT may use and what data or sentiment is expected to be extracted. Going with new social platforms may mean that the analytical tools to mine their data may lag for a time.

Given the evolving social landscape, it is important to include more than the marketing department in the decision-making process. IT can help to drive a useful and purposeful social media strategy, one that continues to be relevant as social media platforms and tools grow and change.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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