Retailers Pin Hopes on Christmas

Brands relying on social to boost sales this holiday season

Headshot of Christopher Heine

With retailers ringing up unusually high sales using Pinterest—arguably the year’s biggest digital-platform sensation—marketers are getting ready to pin holiday gift ideas and seasonal content like glittering ornaments to a virtual Pinterest Christmas tree.

“We will post a sharable, interactive gift guide and offer how-to videos and tutorials for looks to help [customers be] party ready,” said Bridget Dolan, Sephora’s vp, digital media. “Pinterest has great potential for the holidays.”

Sephora counts 64,000 followers on Pinterest, a sizable audience for any brand on the young platform—but still not much in terms of social media scale. In contrast, Sephora has 2 million Facebook fans and 712,000 Twitter followers.

But it doesn’t seem to matter how many Pinterest followers brands have; retailers simply hope the buying propensity they’ve seen in recent months continues.

“Our Pinterest referrals spend 70 percent more than nonsocial channels, including search,” said Jane Carpenter, media rep for home furnishings e-retailer Wayfair, which has 1,800 Pinterest followers. “They are 10 percent more likely to purchase when compared to other social channels. And we are on everything—Twitter, YouTube, Facebook.”

Two-and-a-half-year-old Pinterest, per comScore, hit 25 million unique users in September, compared to just 2 million a year ago. Pinterest “is the fastest stand-alone site in U.S. history to reach that [users] level,” said comScore rep Andrew Lipsman.

“It’s been established that more than any other social channel, Pinterest is where folks go to buy stuff,” added Chad White, research director at online marketing firm Responsys. “People don’t go to Twitter to buy products. And it’s well-established that they don’t go to Facebook to buy things.”

Meanwhile, in addition to Sephora’s multimedia pinning plans, merchants have channel-exclusive contests and wish-list tactics in store for the picture-friendly website. Kate Spade New York has 88,000 Pinterest followers and is amped to add the site to its holiday social media mix of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, said Kristina DiMatteo Fields, digital marketing director for the firm. “We will pin content daily,” she said.

Though not just female-skewed brands are looking to Pinterest for yuletide revenues. MLB Shop, the online store for Major League Baseball (11,000 Pinterest followers), is bolstering resources for the social site. “We are going to put bodies on it to make sure our products and promotions are always there,” said Noah Garden, evp of revenue for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the digital arm of the pro sports league. “What we are seeing right now are good conversion rates.”

And even the Boston Celtics (4,000 followers) believe Pinterest is a slam-dunk for attracting female holiday shoppers. “Our other digital platforms are roughly 75 percent male, so it lets us target a new fan base,” said Shawn Sullivan, CMO for the NBA franchise. “On average, a Celtics item is repinned 17 times. [That viral] allows us to extend the reach of merchandise to fans who otherwise would not have come to our Pinterest page or online store.” 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.