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Sell Online? Content Curation is Your Friend

Its growing role in e-commerce makes this social marketing tool a key one for online sellers.
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Content curation is all the rage. Just ask yourself how many times a week you check your Pinterest account to find inspiration for anything from dinner recipes, to clothes, to home décor.

Online sellers should take note. Why? Because a survey by Bizrate Insights from earlier this year finds that 32 percent of people who curate content on Pinterest have bought something they saw on the site. About 26 percent bought an item by clicking on the link that was posted on Pinterest.

“The opportunity for ‘window shopping’ is directly tied into the experience on Pinterest, so, intuitively, it would make sense that some type of spontaneous shopping would be occurring,” says Hayley Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights.

She adds that the study helped validate some of the speculation of whether the curation site helps drive sales by finding that people have made purchases because of it.

We wanted to take a closer look at the curation trend to see what makes these sites so attractive, what’s hot on these sites—and how you can curate to help stretch your marketing reach.

The content curation trend

First, let’s look at what makes content curation sites so popular. Beth Kanter, a social media expert and the author of multiple books about how nonprofits can use social media, says the draw of curation sites is simple: “It makes it easier to find the information you’re looking for,” she notes.

Plus, people who curate content are seen as leaders in their areas, she adds.

Kanter says businesses should pay attention to the popularity of these sites. They’ve helped her gain the title of expert and have led to “more business leads that I can handle,” she tells us. And, as the survey shows, it can lead to sales for merchants.

Shoppers who made it to a store from Pinterest were 10-percent more likely to buy than shoppers who came through another social site

A variety of items are popular on sites like Pinterest, Fancy and Svpply. On Pinterest, the top searches are for Home, Garden & Pool/Spa items, Clothing & Apparel, and Art, Art Supplies & Hobbies, according to Bizrate Insights.

Clothing sellers may find this next fact very interesting: Clothing & Apparel was the top buying category on Pinterest. However, there’s space for sellers of other types of products, too, as Bizrate’s list of the top 10 purchasing categories on Pinterest indicates:

  1. Clothing & Apparel
  2. Jewelry, Handbags & Accessories
  3. Art, Art Supplies & Hobbies
  4. Home, Garden & Pool/Spa
  5. Health & Beauty
  6. Footwear
  7. Flowers, Food, Drink & Gifts
  8. Baby Gear
  9. Entertainment (Books, Music, etc.)
  10. Sporting Goods

Interestingly enough, when it came to where people were buying from, Etsy came out on top. That could be because Etsy is a top source of inventory on Pinterest.
Brand stores were the second most popular. Small boutiques were third. Amazon tied for fourth, according to the survey.

So we’ve told you why you should pay attention to content curation sites, but you may be wondering what sites you should curate on. We came up with a few that are oriented toward product images and related content. Since it’s the most popular, we’ll start with Pinterest.

Pinterest

Pinterest is huge—and it’s growing dramatically. SocialMedia Examiner reports that Pinterest has grown by 4,377 percent since May 2011.

According to Shopify, Pinterest is now the third-largest social networking site, behind Facebook and Twitter. What’s more, Shopify reports that though the number of referrals to Shopify stores from Pinterest was the same as the number of referrals from Twitter, shoppers who made it to a store from Pinterest were 10-percent more likely to buy than shoppers who came through another social site.

Another interesting stat from Shopify: Pinterest users spent an average of $80—that’s twice the average for shoppers who came via Facebook.

Pinterest used to be accessible by invitation only. However, the site recently opened registration to the masses, so anyone can sign up with their Facebook or Twitter credentials to start their virtual scrapbook.

What draws people to the 2-year-old content curation site?

The main draw is the juxtaposition of interesting imagery, social commentary and the ability to organize all of that into collections

“I think the main draw is the juxtaposition of interesting imagery, social commentary and the ability to organize all of that into collections that you can draw from at any time,” Silver says. “There’s also the sense of unexpected delights [when] being presented with something that you may not have been able to discover anywhere else, and the sense of giving that back by sharing things you find on the Web you think are also worthy of being seen by peers.”

Fancy

Fancy is relatively young, having started just last year. This curation site has significantly fewer users than Pinterest, at 1 million. According to its description, Fancy is “part store, blog, magazine and wish list,” and allows you to curate items from around the Web, like Pinterest.

However, when you use this site, you’ll find that you can post items, “fancy” them—similar to liking something on Facebook—and buy items directly on the site, too. The site made this possible earlier this year. Previously, to buy a product, shoppers had to click on a link within Fancy to get to a retailer that offered the product.

This change, along with the cachet afforded by some fancy Fancy users—like Kanye West and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—has some saying that this content curation site could have something to offer that Pinterest doesn’t.

According to the site, online sellers can sell items they see on the site by clicking the “I want to sell it” link next to products. Then they can enter their merchant information and have their application reviewed to see if they will be able to sell on the site.

We weren’t able to find how many sales have been made on Fancy, or talk to a Fancy member, but the site’s founder seems to think that being able to buy on the site will change how people shop.

“People are finding and buying things they didn’t know about,” he told GigaOM earlier this year. “This is the Holy Grail; this is what commerce on the Internet will look like.”

PickPerfect, and Svpply, and Discoverred, oh my

Lastly, we’ll mention a few up-and-coming sites: PickPerfect, Svpply and Discoverred.

PickPerfect is a very young site, having debuted in June. Like Fancy, it too is geared toward e-commerce. But this site is more socially engaging in that it allows people to organize and share their finds online-and ask other users, friend and family to help them decide on what items are right for them.

It also lets shoppers collaborate on collections with others. This site does not allow you to buy directly from it, but buyers can usually follow a link back to a retail site where they can make a purchase. And online sellers can create collections of their own products, or even add other popular products to show how they coordinate or work together, says Robert Green, the site’s product manager.

“These collections can be viewed by visitors to PickPerfect.com, shared on Facebook and Twitter through the site, and possibly even copied into other members’ collections to increase their exposure,” he says.

Svpply, which was acquired by eBay earlier this month, is “Pinterest’s primary competitor,” notes Macala Wright, founder and publisher of FashionablyMarketing.Me. It, too, focuses on buying.

According to the site, “Svpply is a community of people discovering the products they love.”

An estimated 1.1 million products are found on the site’s Shop section. You can’t buy on this site, but you can follow links back to other sites that sell products. And you will see a Buy button below each item on Svpply to facilitate this.

Lastly, Discoverred is another popular curation site. It describes itself as a “discovery platform dedicated to driving high-quality style inspiration.” It notes that users can browse through thousands of products.

For businesses, content curation is a great way to highlight aspects of their companies that people may not know about

Like we said, these are just a few of the content curation sites out there. A Google search for “top curation sites” will turn up plenty of other options, and you’ll want to give sites a test drive to see which ones work best for you.

But now, let’s talk about how online sellers can curate using these sites.

How to approach content curation

Pinterest reports in its Brand Best Practices that for businesses, content curation sites are a great way to highlight aspects of their companies that people may not know about.

“For instance, Whole Foods uses Pinterest to feature their work with their foundation,” it states. “Pinterest can also be a great tool to learn what your audience/users/customers want and like. When The Travel Channel started their Pinterest account, they asked their Facebook users what boards they should create and what they should pin.”

Other companies have used curation sites to ask questions and engage customers. For instance, high-end shop Bergdorf Goodman asked followers on Pinterest what they never forget in the mornings and asked them to pin their answers. The retailer got a big response.

Social media expert Kanter says online sellers should curate items related to what they sell.

“If you sell magic markers, curate information about magic markers,” she says. Why? Because you want to “become the expert” in your field, she adds.

You could do similar things. And, of course, you could pin, fancy or share your items on these sites. Just don’t go overboard. Don’t use a sales pitch. Be casual, inviting and show only your best products.

Have you tried content curation to reach a new audience? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.