Pinterest would not exist without brands.
So said Eva Papoutsakis Smith, head of marketing communications and insights at Pinterest, at eMarketer’s State of Mobile breakfast on Wednesday.
“Two-thirds of all pins come from brands or business websites,” Smith said. “If you removed all of that, there wouldn’t be a Pinterest.”
That said, advertising on Pinterest is still a nascent thing. After finally launching a beta version of Promoted Pins in 2014, Pinterest made its ad product generally available in January. Advertisers also have the ability to pay Pinterest to boost the visibility of their pins.
The first advertisers to take advantage included Target, Walmart and Kraft. At AdExchanger’s Industry Preview event in January, Don Faul, then COO of Pinterest, said the company is planning to roll more more features for its paid ad products in the near term, including solutions around DR advertising and the ability to integrate Pinterest’s targeting capabilities with a brand’s CRM data.
But Smith knows that advertisers need concrete results if they’re going to spend. She split the metrics Pinterest shares with advertisers into two buckets: general insights and specific behaviors.
“What is it that pinners are doing? We’re continually sharing that with partners during the sales process. The other half is the measurement component,” Smith said. “Our users are authenticated, so we’re able to see how they’re behaving across all platforms."
Pinterest users do a “tremendous amount of research on mobile, which makes sense,” Smith said. “But people are still converting on desktop” – a trend that dovetails with the way most users interact with mobile right now. According to research released by Marin Software on Wednesday, the click-through rate for mobile search is 2.7% vs. the desktop average of 2.1%, but desktop conversion rates outpace mobile at 10% to 7.1%.
Although most conversions happen off-site, Smith said Pinterest has no plans at present to introduce a buy button. Both Facebook and Twitter are experimenting with buttons of their own.
In terms of what advertising looks like on Pinterest – it doesn’t look much like advertising at all, and that’s by design. Pinterest has made a concerted effort to keep its Promoted Pin ad unit looking “as native as possible,” Smith said.
“You might receive ads, but they feel like an organic part of your home feed and that’s for a reason,” she said. “If I’m interested in beauty, it doesn’t matter if a pin comes from L’Oreal or a makeup blogger.”
As Geoff Ramsey, chairman and chief innovation officer at eMarketer, noted, “It’s not so much a native advertisement, more so native content.”
Both eMarketer and Forrester are fairly bullish on Pinterest’s potential – if the platform can develop its tools around targeting, which now don’t go beyond the basics of geo, gender and interest.
As Forrester’s Nate Elliott observed in a recent blog post, “Pinterest’s marketing value lies more in the future than in the present. … Once the site broadens its targeting capabilities, though, it’ll be time to spend.”
Pinterest, for its part, is positioning itself as a sort of treasure trove of purchase intent.
“We get to see some really great information on what pinners are doing and how marketers can tap into that,” Smith said. “We see what an audience is interested in, we see what categories they’re interested in and we see what product they’re interested in.”
Take a specific event like Valentine’s Day. Pinterest observed that users engage with the platform in three distinct waves. About two months before the big day, the planners start pinning and talking about what they want to do and what they want to buy. Roughly two weeks before, the procrastinators start to post ideas for last-minute gifts. And on the day itself, the “lonely hearts club – for lack of a better term,” Smith joked, pin ideas for parties and fun things to do that don’t involve a romantic partner.
“We have this audience leaning forward and there’s this highly perishable moment we can surface to your audience when people are most interested,” Smith said.
Although its overarching strategy is an omnichannel one, everything Pinterest does is with mobile in mind. Seventy-five percent of user activity on Pinterest happens on a mobile device.
“We acknowledge that mobile has won the arms race,” Smith said. “We engineer mobile-first for everything.”