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Pinterest sales are not what they seem to be.  In fact, they are likely underreported (by a lot), according Sharad Verma, the CEO and co-founder of leading Pinterest analytics company Pinfluencer.

Verma refutes a frequently quoted metric of Pinterest-driven sales from a study by Prosper Mobile Insights.  The report states that people simply are not motivated to buy things based on what they see on Pinterest.  They asked users whether Pinterest influences their purchasing decisions, with just 13% reporting that it did.

Verma disagrees with this metric and is seeing a different set of statistics.

“The problem with sales attribution for any channel is that very few companies have more than a 60-day attribution window or a 30-day attribution window– so all the traffic and sales that is getting reported is elastic,” Verma said.

He added that so many factors go into a purchase after a ‘pin’, that many analytics companies are underreporting the data.  He estimates that the actual number of purchases that are coming out of Pinterest is at least five to 10 times of what people are seeing in Google analytics reports.

“Very few people click on a product and then buy the same product in the same session,” Verma said.  “If you look at the number of pins that go into a purchase, well you have to get the size, you have to get the colors, you have to may end up actually buying a different product two days later, you may have to talk to your spouse before you make that purchase, you may be in a hurry, you may not have your charge card, etc.– so very few people buy in the same session and the numbers that are actually being reported are the absolute lower bound.”

If that’s true, Pinterest sales are definitely being underreported.  Tracking sales figures through Pinterest is even more difficult because the company doesn’t currently offer an API for third-party developers.

A separate report by Vision Critical also showed the difficulty of measuring sales through Pinterest because of the added variable of buying a product “offline.”  The survey showed that one in five Pinterest users are buying something they have pinned.  However, the report showed more “pinners” purchase a product they’ve pinned offline (16 percent) than online (12 percent).  Which means the figures that analytics companies are able to measure through the website, may not be telling the whole story.Pinterest2

Plus, brands running promotions on Pinterest affect the figures drastically.  Verma said that the number of purchases from Pinterest traffic more than doubles when companies run promotions.

“We’ve analyzed 22 brands and looked at the number of purchases that have come from their Pinterest traffic in the past six months, and what we’ve observed is that number has gone up by 175 percent and almost all of those had run a promotion over the last three or four months,” he said.

Some of that increase is due to organic growth from Pinterest, but Verma said it accounts for a small portion.

Pinfluencer, which is only a year old, launched its Pinterest marketing and analytics platform in July 2012 and has run more than 100 promotions for over 50 clients, including Etsy, Zappos, Martha Stewart, Sephora, and Orbitz.  Verma said the results show that traffic is in fact converted into sales and running promotions works.

“When a brand runs a promotion, they actually get a boost,” Verma said.  “They boost the number of pins and they boost the engagement with their followers.  So the more engaged the pinners and the followers are over a particular brand, and the more repining they’re doing, the more clicking they’re doing on a range of products.”

One of Pinfluencer’s competitors is Socialrithmic, which recently introduced analytics platform Pinster.  Pinster, which is currently free, helps  brands using Pinterest to better target their campaigns through a dashboard with analytics on pin interactions and website visits referred from Pinterest.  The company didn’t have any hard data yet on how Pinster is translating traffic into sales, but they have recently switched their focus away from Facebook and Twitter and onto Pinterest as its growth continues to explode.

In fact, Pinterest may actually be the second largest social network in the world behind Facebook.  According to Pew, Pinterest was the third most popular social network with 15 percent, just one percentage point behind Twitter.  But with a margin of error of 2.6 percent, Pinterest may actually be in second.  Pinterest is also the fastest growing social network, so it’s likely to overtake Twitter shortly.

So with Pinterest traffic translating into higher sales than many companies believe, the ones that aren’t capitalizing on Pinterest, may be losing out.

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