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Brands struggle with Pinterest in the absence of promoted pins

Brand struggle, Pinterest, promoted pins, daily active users, South East Asian markets, Asian markets, Ayumi Nakajima, industry news

By Devika Singh

Image-sharing social media platform Pinterest recently announced that its global monthly active users (MAUs) crossed the 300 million mark. According to Statista, India accounts for only 5% or approximately 15 million of this pie, ranking third after the US (36.70%) and Brazil (8.44%). Compare this with Instagram’s 69 million daily active users (DAUs) in India, and the picture is clear — Pinterest has a lot of catching up to do in the country.

The company, often described as a virtual bulletin board for images, counts the Asia Pacific region as one of its fastest growing ones; it opened an office in Singapore in July to service the Indian and South East Asian markets. “We already see more than seven million ideas saved each day across these countries,” says Ayumi Nakajima, country manager, South East Asia and India, Pinterest. “Having a team based in the region enables us to build relationships in countries such as India.”

With a niche user base in the country mainly comprising women, Pinterest typically draws advertisers from the fashion and beauty, food, lifestyle, furniture and home décor segments. Besides these staple categories, some e-commerce players too have tried their luck on the platform. Data from Unmetric shows that Jaypore, Good Earth, Cbazaar, Craftsvilla, UrbanClap, Azva, Livspace, Myntra, CarDekho and Asian Paints are the 10 most followed Indian brands on Pinterest. Then there are other categories like media and entertainment as well.

However, brands have had limited success monetising the platform thus far.

Lead generation

Online wedding planning platform WedMeGood has been organically tapping Pinterest since 2014, when it launched operations. “Pinterest is the second highest social media contributor for us in terms of traffic after Facebook. Over the last year, we have more than doubled our Pinterest traffic,” shares Mehak Shahani, co-founder at the company. But the brand struggles with getting conversions from it. When users scour ideas on Pinterest, they may click on a brand’s post leading them to the brand’s site, but they rarely transact via this mode.

Since audience behaviour on Pinterest is primarily tilted towards ideation and planning, and not so much towards commerce or transacting, brands tend to find themselves in a sticky spot. Furthermore, some brands complain of a lack of engagement and targeting options on the platform. “This is perhaps why Instagram has emerged as a better platform,” says Kaushik Mukherjee, co-founder and COO, SUGAR Cosmetics. “We consciously prioritise Instagram and YouTube over Pinterest because of features such as Stories that offer high engagement.” Instagram also offers niche targeting options based on age, gender, location, etc.

Pinning hopes on advertising

Among other hurdles is the lack of paid advertising features on Pinterest. It is speculated that Pinterest will launch ‘Promoted Pins’ and other advertising options in India soon. “After basic organic content development, brands are unable to accelerate this content; Promoted Pins could help here,” notes Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive.

With Pinterest ads and media options not widely available in India directly, “brands are restricted to organic discovery with high media costs which in most cases does not justify spends”, shares Ambika Sharma, founder and MD, Pulp Strategy.

However, all is not lost. Experts point out that the platform has “huge potential” given its unique proposition at a time when most other social media platforms are mirroring each other in terms of features. Moving beyond driving organic traffic, Pinterest could “turn into a key social channel, once its advertising options are fully released”, according to Sharat Krishnan, marketing head at online jewellery firm Melorra.