Retailers are testing a new holiday-inspired ad product on Pinterest

As Facebook struggles with an oversaturated ad platform, retailers are looking to Pinterest to drive sales on social media this holiday season.

Lowe’s, Kohl’s and Macy’s this year are all working with Pinterest to create holiday shopping-inspired “snow globes”– ad products that let retailers build interactive catalogs on Pinterest’s platform. The retailers can customize them by filling them with products via Pinterest’s shoppable promoted pins. Users can then click around within the globe for gift ideas in different categories; the globes show Pinterest users customized product recommendations, based on their browsing history. For the upcoming holiday shopping season, Pinterest built the snow-globe format and pitched it to retailers who are able to personalize the globe’s design. Customers often find the globe through promoted pins, paid placements or searches on Pinterest.

Randi Rosenfeld, vice president of publishing for Macy’s, said the company has rethought its social media voice and strategy for the fourth quarter. This year, that meant finding a specific story to tell on a specific platform, not riffing a Facebook post on a TV ad. Having a unique experience — like the snow globe catalog — better caters to the demographics of a particular platform.

“We need to start with that core campaign idea and bring to social ideas that fit the way people consume content on that platform,” said Rosenfeld. “The Pinterest strategy is a great example of the execution of that. We also really need to tap into the mindset people have when they’re on that platform.”

The e-commerce site Etsy is also partnering with Pinterest and Brit and Co. to create personalized gift-giving guides that link right to the Etsy marketplace. And Kohl’s is touting its own deal with Pinterest as the latest innovation of its online retail strategy, adding that its version of the snow globe populates unique recommendations for gifts based on Pinterest search terms and browsing history. Lowe’s is doing the same, pitching products from a home improvement perspective on Pinterest.

Denise Mahnick, co-founder of style discovery platform Shoptelligence, said Macy’s is also leveraging the snow globe branding across mediums, noting recent holiday advertisements that feature the globe on TV. So, while it’s important to unify a message with a medium, what also matters is establishing a unified brand voice across platforms, she said.

“We sell a lot of stuff,” said Rosenfeld of Macy’s. “So how do we take advantage of that? Instead of it being a negative that you can get overwhelmed by choice, we turned the choice into a positive. We made it gamified.”

Amy Vener, Pinterest’s vertical retail strategy lead, said such holiday deals are an important source of revenue for the social media platform. And they’re partnerships that seem to make more sense as retail evolves, she said. Vener said the platform has been vying to better position itself as a retail partner with ad products that can send users back to retailer’s sites. It has long cornered its social media brand, but the company has been sitting on a trove of data about how customers discover products. And now Pinterest is getting better at cashing in, Vener said.

Joe Grigsby, Chicago managing director for the agency iCrossing, said Pinterest has recently evolved as an ad platform. But he said the social network is “playing catch-up” with more sophisticated offerings from Facebook and Instagram.

The platform is cheaper and more efficient than Facebook or Google, Grisby said, adding that retailers find it a solid source of new customers. The cost-per-click of Pinterest is about half that of Facebook, he said.

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“Pinterest is trying to position itself well in the marketplace,” said Grigsby. “They need to demonstrate that they’re driving growth.”

“The way the industry has evolved in wanting to become more than just a transaction for consumers and having more meaningful, personalized shopping experiences — Pinterest is really a big tool that consumers are using,” said Vener.
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