And Nordstrom, which has 4.4 million followers, used data about top pinned items to create in-store displays. Executives have noticed certain items tend to go viral on the site, such as mason jars and a crochet swimsuit by Robin Piccone, which "seems to have a never ending shelf life" on Pinterest, says Bryan Galipeau, Nordstrom's social media manager.
"The unique thing about Pinterest from a retailer's perspective is it's really about the products," he says.
For its part, Target, which has 152,000 Pinterest followers, launched a beta web site in December called Target Awesome Shop that highlights the most popular Target items pinned on Pinterest. The site now offers 1,100 items, ranging from an inflatable movie screen to a tufted loveseat. Target doesn't disclose revenue but Rick Gomez, senior vice president of marketing, says Pinterest is a "strong social driver of traffic to Target.com."
Target also is partnering with six Pinterest users with the most followers on a new line of party products. The first collection, with designer Joy Cho, launched March 16 and includes colorful hats, plates, napkins and other items. Cho, who joined in Pinterest in 2010 and has 13.6 million followers, says she is often inspired by Pinterest. "It's the equivalent to tearing out magazine pages and making a scrapbook," she says.
At first Pinterest worked with retailers for free. But in recent months the site has tested services that would allow it to charge for such things as promoted pins, which would are similar to ads.
eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said Pinterest's business is going in the right direction since promoted items on Facebook and Twitter have conditioned social media users for ad intrusion. "I think if Pinterest ... makes sure ads ... fit in with what people are doing on Pinterest, I don't think they'll face ... backlash," she says
In the meantime, Pinterest has no steady revenue stream. But investors seem to have confidence in the privately-held company: Pinterest has raised enough from venture capitalists to value the company at $3.8 billion.
"Pinterest ... helps people plan their futures," says Steve Patrizi, Pinterest head of partner marketing. "Businesses are an important part of this because pins can be anything you can find on the web, from products to articles to recipes."
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