If traditional search is like the left brain of the internet, premised on fast information retrieval, factually correct answers and queries based on words, Pinterest is the right brain: associative, visual, subjective, and about possibilities and inspiration right for you.

Primarily a visual discovery tool, Pinterest helps more than 200 million people around the world find over 100 billion ideas across every human-interest category – food, fashion, home, style, travel and more. According to a study completed this summer alongside comScore, Pinterest is the internet’s top destination for people seeking new ideas and inspiration.

Pinterest’s Lens feature embodies the effectiveness of visual search. Instead of having to type in a search query, users can now use the camera function in their Pinterest app to take a picture of any object in the real world and be presented with visually similar ideas. At iProspect we’ve spent the last two decades putting brands at the forefront of text-based search and social, and now with Pinterest, a new and unique canvas combining visual search with powerful personalisation. This combination gives marketers a new way to tap into latent consumer demand, acquire new users, harness more sophisticated taste-based intent data, and ultimately, drive sales.

Evolving consumer behaviour – Pinterest’s unique value proposition

When people are looking for specific information, like the weather in Las Vegas for example, search engines work really well. Search engines have perfected the ability to quickly retrieve information by tapping into the content and link structure of web pages to map queries to accurate results.

However, the majority of human questions aren’t about facts or simple text-based answers. Most questions are open-ended and about discovery, like “What should I make for dinner?”, “How should my home look?”, or “What should I wear for a fun date night out?” These questions are inherently subjective and don’t just have one correct answer – the people asking them want to see creative possibilities and feel inspired by a range of options. Personalised visual results are particularly suited to addressing these open-ended questions, and can drive real business results for brands that want to be discovered by people in this inspiration-seeking mindset.

The opportunity for marketers

Having spent the last seven years creating a visual discovery tool that offers recommendations personalised to individual tastes and aspirations, Pinterest has cultivated a platform where people can discover what they’re looking for, even if they can’t think of the words: a place that helps people feel inspired to try something new and take action on the ideas they’ve discovered.

People come to Pinterest first when they want to actively consider what to do or buy next, but want options. Recent research from Neustar confirms this, identifying Pinterest as the strongest first-touch channel when present in the consumer journey.

Product searches on Pinterest are different than on other platforms; of more than 2 billion searches each month, 97% are unbranded.  This is why Pinterest is such an effective place to reach people while they’re actively considering their next buying decision – marketers have a huge audience of people who are simultaneously in market and undecided.

To successfully reach these consumers, here are three key areas where we at iProspect think marketers should begin leveraging and testing Pinterest as an integral piece of their paid media mix to drive sales.

1. Reach consumers in active consideration mode by leveraging Pinterest’s visual technology

Visual technology is transforming the way we communicate. Humans are experts at visual selection – we’re hard-wired for it. Neurons devoted to visual processing take up 30% of the cerebral cortex, versus 8% for touch, and 2% for hearing.

Pinterest believes the camera is the new keyboard and is investing heavily in computer vision technology that allows people to browse and discover the web visually. Every month, Pinterest sees more than 300 million visually driven searches.

With visual discovery technology there’s no need to type in a search, or even know what the product is called to find it. People can just let their eyes and tastes guide them. This tech transcends language or location, and makes it easier than ever for people to find the ideas they want to see. Marketers with products that lend themselves to a visual aesthetic where taste is hard to express in words (home furnishings, fashion, food, etc.) can especially benefit from this new form of search.

2. Leverage the Taste Graph for high-quality prospecting in paid campaigns

As digital consumers and marketing practices continue to mature, brands can no longer rely solely on interruptive advertising. Their content, products and formats must align with the core consumer behaviour on the platform being used, and this is particularly relevant on Pinterest.

Pinterest’s user base favours content and formats that complement their core consumer behaviour. They want a more personalised experience that’s relevant to them and based on their tastes, rather than the interruptive experiences of old.

It’s a horizontal personalisation engine that encompasses all of a person’s tastes and preferences, which it achieves by amassing an immense set of preferences across a wide array of interests and intents, generated from every search, pin, or other interaction. These evolving tastes, preferences and interests form Pinterest’s core data asset – the Pinterest Taste Graph – which connects the millions of people on Pinterest to hundreds of billions of fresh ideas (and brands) that are just right for them. This data is what helps Pinterest truly understand their audience in a totally different way than a standard search engine or social platform.

Seeing the different ways millions of Pinners curate their Pinterest boards gives Pinterest a deep understanding of all kinds of people’s tastes. In addition, often Pinterest can spot trends faster than other platforms. iProspect is paying close attention to the Pinterest Taste Graph, not least because of the enhanced targeting capabilities it now offers businesses. There are over 5,000 interests to choose from; for example in beauty, brands can not only target beauty enthusiasts, but go deeper to target women engaging with (and/or looking for) acne treatments, lip moisturisers,  beach waves, or any number of other interests. Early tests show many advertisers are seeing 50% increases in their click-through rates, and 20% more cost-effective clicks thanks to the Taste Graph.

3. Accelerate the path to purchase by leveraging shopping features

In February 2017, Pinterest introduced Shop the Look, which combines computer vision and human curation and allows Pinners to shop items from the looks they see in fashion and home-decor Pins, partnering with Curalate, Olapic, ShopStyle and other sites to make shopping from brands and retailers simple.

Today, 5 million new shoppable products from 25,000 brands appear on Shop the Look on Pinterest, with hundreds more added every day. When someone is ready to move from “just browsing” to “taking the plunge”, users can click through to the retailer’s website, buy right on Pinterest, or go to the store – whatever is easiest for them.

Actionability translates to sales, too: 57% of people said they made a purchase after seeing content from brands on Pinterest, and brands reported Pinterest users had a 40% larger basket size than non-users.

The time for action is now

Brands and marketers have known for a while that there is opportunity on Pinterest, but as with any new platform, they have wanted to better understand how to execute, achieve scale, and measure success before diving in.

To address these concerns, Pinterest has made many enhancements to their paid advertising capabilities over the last year, with improved targeting, formats, measurement and insights to align clearly with marketing objectives.

With consumer behaviour evolving to visual search and discovery, and with marketers wanting to intercept new sources of demand to drive growth, iProspect sees Pinterest becoming uniquely positioned to add value and be an integral part of the media mix.

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Vikram Bhaskaran

As Head of Market Development, Vikram helps marketers across sectors better understand how to derive the most value from Pinterest. Vikram worked on the first version of Pinterest seven years ago and has since gone on to be a founding member of the partnership team, launch the NYC office, and lead teams focused on sectors ranging from consumer packaged goods and retail to financial services and travel. Prior to Pinterest, Vikram worked in strategy and business development roles at American Express, L2, Walt Disney and the Corporate Executive Board. In his free time, he sits on the board of the Museum of Food and Drink and is an advisor to the Tuft’s Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy. Vikram is currently pinning home renovation ideas, parenting tips and travel inspiration.