A few years ago, I did a story on EcommerceBytes about a new Facebook feature called a "kiosk" that enabled a jewelry seller to set up a store on the social networking site. That was long before Facebook went public. Now, a variety of ecommerce service providers, including Volusion and Ecwid, also enable their clients to set up Facebook stores. You can buy gifts for your Facebook friends on the site and even pay for promoted posts.
These days, the relatively "new kid on the block" in the social networking world is Pinterest, the photo sharing site. Pinterest is great for collecting, presenting, and arranging images. It might not seem like you can sell directly on a Pinterest, but Jason Miles has found a way to do it. He thinks the company he works for as a marketer, Liberty Jane Clothing, based in the Seattle, Washington area, is the only one selling on Pinterest.
"I'm not sure if I'm a pioneer, but I do think Pinterest can move toward a more integrated sales system that will permit ecommerce activities," says Miles. As he explains, it's technically possible to sell items on Pinterest with just a few mouse clicks. He used the Oronjo shopping cart software to set up a shopping experience on one of the Liberty Jane Clothing Pinterest pages. Each of the product listings on the page takes visitors to a checkout page where they can pay with PayPal.
However, although eight items have been downloaded for free using the system, no one has actually paid for one of the doll clothing patterns offered by Liberty Jane to date. Miles says that's only because it's not what people expect when they're on Pinterest. "It is technically possible to sell digital goods via Pinterest with just a few clicks, but it is not people's expected user experience," he says.
Miles has published instructions on how to sell on Pinterest on this Pinterest page and is co-author of "Pinterest Power: Market Your Business, Sell Your Product, and Build Your Brand on the World's Hottest Social Network."
Whether or not an ecommerce seller is interested in selling on a new venue such as Pinterest, the site can bring plenty of benefits. He offers the following tips to entrepreneurs who want to take full advantage of the site:
- If you can set up your website or your ecommerce store so that it contains plenty of compelling images, your visitors will naturally want to post them on Pinterest, Miles says.
- Use what Miles calls "Pinnable Image Optimization" (PIO) to make sure your content is pinnable: make sure each page or post on your site has a unique image that indicates what the page's content is, and why it is worth looking at. "The image you include in your post or page needs to be like a display ad for that content."
- Set yourself up on Pinterest and "establish a solid presence on the site," he adds. "This will enhance your efforts and give your customers and fans a place to connet with you on Pinterest."
- You can check to see if content from your website has been "pinned" by going to this URL: http://www.pinterest.com/source/yourwebsitename.com (enter your website name).
Liberty Jane Patterns says it has the largest collection of doll clothing patterns on the Internet. In October 2012, the site will have had 200,000 of its patterns downloaded. In a given month 6-7,000 patterns are downloaded from its website (LibertyJanePatterns.com). Each spring and fall the company releases new designs and sells them at auction on eBay.
Pinterest just one part of a social marketing strategy, Miles adds. He passes along the following additional tips for driving traffic to your business:
- Constantly work at improving your product photography, as this is the most important aspect of online selling, he says.
- Use social media like YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest to market your items. "We love YouTube," says Miles. "We have over 8,000 subscribers and 1.4 million video views. We also effectively use Facebook, with over 18,000 Fans, and Pinterest with over 3,000 followers. Each one is slightly different, but they all work together to give your fans a way to share you with their friends."
- Find a small niche and "dominate" it by "creating a complete "eco-system" for your customers," he adds.
An ecosystem, Miles explains, gives dedicated customers multiple ways to get involved in it and for the various customers that might be inside your unique niche.
"For example, for our customers, we give thousands of digital patterns away for free - for those who are focused on free merchandise," he explains. "We sell patterns from $3.99 to $11.99 for people who want a larger variety of options. We also publish patterns on our site for over 20+ designers who want to sell patterns in this niche."
The website has over 1,000 sew-from-home seamstresses who sew and sell items made from Liberty Jane Patterns and sell on Etsy, eBay and at local craft fairs for a variety of prices. The crafters sell the items under their own label, but give Liberty Jane "credit" in their listings.
For those who don't want to sew their own patterns, the company also sells clothes under the Liberty Jane Clothing label at a relatively high price point. Original designs are auctioned on eBay with final bid prices going for as much as $335. As Miles summarizes, "It all works together to create a complete customer experience."
Related story: What Online Sellers Need to Know about Pinterest (February 2012)