5 Things Marketers Want to See in Pinterest’s Data-Heavy Advertising Business

Can too much e-commerce hurt the platform?

Pinterest is playing the long game when it comes to working with brands. Since launching in 2010, the platform's collected a trove of data on the products people search for and when they search for them. And it's used that data to slowly roll out an advertising business model that while still young, is getting brands' attention.

The site launched its first international ads in the U.K. this week following two years of tests with Promoted Posts in the U.S. And after rolling out a buy button in 2015, the company is working on building shoppable ads brands can buy against keywords users search for.

"It's something that we're working on and one of our top requests from our partners," Michael Yamartino, Pinterest's head of commerce told Adweek.

Still, social shopping has been slow to gain traction, and Yamartino said checking out straight from Pinterest is "going to take a long time for people to get used to."

As Pinterest looks to snatch marketing budgets away from Google, Facebook and other big digital players, Adweek spoke with brands and agencies to see how the platform stacks up.

Here are five things brands want from Pinterest:

1. Comparable stats
Unlike Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, shopping on Pinterest is all about planning for the future. While such forward-thinking data fascinates brands, it also means that a post can go unnoticed for days, weeks or months before anyone acts on it, and that makes it tough for brands to measure as they would their other media.

"We're still figuring out how to best communicate to the consumer," said Serena Potter, vp of digital strategy for Macy's, one of the first brands to roll out buyable pins last year.

"When we first launched, it was [with] a partial set of products," she said. "We're still very much ramping up that buyable pin program."

Potter explained that Macy's typically measures its campaigns based on whether users buy something within a week of seeing an ad. Those standards don't apply to Pinterest because it takes longer to know if someone shopped from a post.

"You're not going to pick up the sale in a seven-day pixel like the seven-day cookie that we usually look at," Potter said.

2.  More sophisticated pins
Potter also pointed out that buyable pins can only be used to buy one product at a time. So, when Macy's posts an outfit with a shirt and pants, consumers can only buy one of the items featured.

"Once you can purchase multiple items, that may help increase the volume," she said.

However, she does see big potential in creating custom content with Pinterest's data.

"It's incredibly rich data if you think about the customer preferences and the audiences that you could build based on what they're pinning or what boards they have," she said.

3. Don't overdo the e-commerce 
Last month, Pinterest opened up its ad business to all small and medium-sized brands, expanding its targeting options from 30 to 420 interests.

Jill Sherman, svp of social strategy at DigitasLBi, said Pinterest's most recent pitches have centered on telling agencies they can create less content for the platform with ads that zero in on specific groups of people.

"Because their targeting has gotten so good and so sophisticated, they're able to look at behavioral and contextual data to know where you are in the purchase funnel and then deliver the right media message for that moment in the purchase cycle," Sherman said. "It isn't about putting more content on the platform—it's about putting the right content and then targeting to the right people at the right time. It's interesting that they've been able to prove that out."

That has drawbacks for brands that have spent years creating Pinterest-specific content, though.

"It's [about] Pinterest finding a balance in not pushing too hard with the commerce piece that they forget that people also use it for all of those other things," Sherman said. "That's not coming across clearly in their new materials. It feels very much like a commerce engine; it feels like that's the direction that they're taking it based on what they're selling."

4. But beef up the ads
Still, other agency execs are embracing Pinterest's commerce push and want more shopping-minded advertising opportunities.

Right now, brands can't plug buyable pins into ads. But once they're able to target their shoppable posts to specific groups, it "would be a really big step in the right direction for Pinterest," said Amanda Cuoco, a digital strategist at Hill Holliday.

"Pinterest knows your purchase intent before you're even really planning to purchase just based off of your searches," Cuoco said. "It's really interesting and it gives them a lot of clout were they ever to make the buyable pin area a little bit more targeted to people."

5. Move beyond fashion
While retailers and consumer-packaged goods are some of the most popular brands on Pinterest, other marketers say there isn't a strong enough use case in areas typically popular with men like automotive, technology and gaming.

Victor Pineiro, svp of social media at Big Spaceship, said his shop isn't working with any brands that are active on Pinterest.

"For marketers, it's been a dark horse where there are a core [group] of brands that have it embedded into their social strategy, but so many brands don't understand how they live in that space," Pineiro said.

Pinterest's Yamartino agreed that beauty, fashion and retail brands are the most popular on Pinterest but also said travel and finance are big priorities this year.

"Now that the platform is mature, we're going to tackle other verticals," he said.