Model wearing a top created by fashion retailer Draped.
Draped, a Delaware-based clothing and accessories company, was selected for Pinterest's Community Rebuild program that offers classes and coaching on branding and marketing. — Draped

Why it matters:

  • Pinterest saw searches related to supporting small businesses jump 350% at the start of the pandemic.
  • Small businesses have become an important driver of ad revenue for Pinterest and other social, search and e-commerce platforms.
  • Pinterest’s integration with Shopify allows 1.7 million merchants to upload product images and create links for purchases.

Before she started her online fashion brand, Draped, Holly Draper frequently used visual search engine Pinterest as a way to look for inspiration and ideas.

Now Draper is using Pinterest to grow her Delaware-based clothing and accessories company.

Last fall, Draper was selected for a program to help underrepresented small businesses learn how to reach potential customers via Pinterest.

“They taught me how to utilize my brand on Pinterest, how to run ads and how to find my target audience,” Draper told CO—. “I was able to build my brand and definitely receive more exposure.”

Amy Peterson is co-founder of Rebel Nell, a Detroit-based company that transforms fallen graffiti paint and other memorabilia, such as the red vinyl of vintage Motown records, or pieces of demolished sports arenas, into jewelry and gift items. Her company, which works with a local nonprofit to provide opportunities to women who are transitioning out of homelessness, saw traffic to its website increase dramatically after the company was featured this spring in a Pinterest promotion for International Women’s Day.

“Our impressions went up something like 500%, audience [impressions] went up 200%, engagements were up a tremendous amount,” Peterson told CO—. “As a small business, one of our biggest challenges is getting exposure and finding the right audience, so to have Pinterest feature us was really beneficial,” she said.

[Read here on how to market your business on Pinterest.]

A platform where even the smallest businesses can be discovered

Draper and Peterson’s businesses are among those that have benefited from a host of small business initiatives Pinterest has launched over the past year.

Pinterest, like other social media, search and e-commerce platforms, recognizes the power of small businesses to drive its own growth. It is positioning itself as a place where even the smallest businesses can have a chance to be discovered, because the typical Pinterest user comes to the platform to search for ideas, rather than specific brands or products.

In 2020 we drove more sales, more conversions for small businesses than we ever had in the history of our company.

Bill Watkins, head of global mid-market and small business sales, Pinterest

Pinterest has used its Pinterest shop features to spotlight over 150 small businesses in connection with Earth Day, National Black Business Month, International Women’s Day and in a partnership with American Express to promote small retailers.

Last year it began an integration with Shopify that allows all 1.7 million merchants using the e-commerce platform to easily upload content to Pinterest and create “shoppable pins,” or tags that facilitate links for sales.

It created a Verified Merchant program that gives authorized sellers a blue checkmark on their profiles, enabling them to boost traffic and visibility on the platform.

Pinterest launched the Community Rebuild program, which offers classes on branding and marketing strategy, one-on-one coaching and ad credits to small business owners who are persons of color, disabled or members of the LGBTQ community. Thus far, more than 20 small business owners have received that training.

Pinterest also offers Pinterest Academy classes for all small businesses and uses its Pinterest Business Community program to help small businesses network with each other.

[Read here about tools for selling on social media.]

‘It was clear that our pinners wanted to help individual makers and companies shop online’

Not only are more consumers seeking out and supporting small business, but small businesses have become an important generator of ad revenues and sales for companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon.

 An employee of Rebel Nell works on a piece of jewelry made from fallen graffiti paint.
Detroit-based Rebel Nell saw traffic to its website increase dramatically after the company was featured in a Pinterest promotion for International Women’s Day. — Rebel Nell

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, Pinterest searches related to supporting small business surged 350% year over year, Bill Watkins, head of global mid-market and small business sales for Pinterest, told CO—.

“It was clear that our pinners [the Pinterest term for its users] wanted to help individual makers and companies, and to shop online,” Watkins said. That inspired Pinterest executives to expand existing programs to support small businesses and to add new ones.

Pinterest saw its user base explode during 2020, as folks stuck at home turned to their phones to shop and to be entertained.

The platform added over 100 million monthly active users in 2020, the biggest increase in its history, and reached 478 million monthly active users this year. Revenue in 2020 rose 48% over 2019, with small- and medium-sized businesses driving much of the growth in ad revenue, executives said in an earnings call with investors.

Users who visit Pinterest weekly outspent shoppers on other platforms

While Pinterest users cannot at this time make a purchase directly on the platform, the company has been endeavoring to make it easier to go from searching to purchasing with one-tap navigations to merchants’ e-commerce links, Watkins said.

“In 2020 we drove more sales, more conversions for small businesses than we ever had in the history of our company,” Watkins said.

 Photo collage displaying products from small businesses that were part of the collaboration between American Express and Pinterest.
A partnership with American Express is one of the ways that Pinterest has used its shop guides to feature over 150 small businesses. — Pinterest

Pinterest also is seeing more users coming to the platform with the intent to find items to buy. Engagement with Pinterest’s shopping services has risen 80% over the past six months.

Users who visit Pinterest weekly outspent shoppers on other platforms by twice as much every month, with an 85% larger basket size, according to data shared by the company.

Shopping for ideas, rather than brands

Pinterest, Watkins said, offers an advantage to sellers that other social platforms can’t claim. When users search on Pinterest, 97% of the time they are not searching for specific brands or products, but conducting an unbranded query for inspiration for something like a teen birthday party or backyard decorating ideas.

“Thus, any business, large or small, has equal opportunity to get discovered and have sales driven for them,” he said.

Draper and Peterson both said they have more customers coming to their websites through Pinterest, and the increased traffic has translated into more sales.

“Our business is on Shopify, so I can see where our traffic comes from,” Draper said. “I saw a really huge uptick of people coming through Pinterest and purchasing.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

CO— Exclusives: Insider Strategies

How the buzziest brands and hottest startups are solving today's biggest business challenges. CO— brings you advice from startup founders and top executives for thriving in a new world.

Get recognized. Get rewarded. Get $25K.

Is your small business one of the best in America? Apply for our premier awards program for small businesses, the CO—100, today to get recognized and rewarded. One hundred businesses will be honored and one business will be awarded $25,000.