Pinterest says its intent-based data is far more valuable than the demographic-based information other social networks offer.

Pinterest Inc. is making its first big push into the robust types of ad targeting options offered by Facebook Inc. and other websites and online ad networks.

The social network today announced it is rolling out three new ad targeting options:

  • Customer list targeting, which, like Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool, lets a retailer target the social network’s users based on shoppers’ email addresses or mobile ad IDs, which is an identifier that links a consumer to a device.
  • Visitor targeting, which lets a retailer retarget a consumer who has interacted with the retailer’s website.
  • Lookalike targeting, which lets a retailer target consumers who share traits or behaviors with a retailer’s visitor or customer list.

The new ad targeting options offer far more precision than search, keyword and interest-based targeting options Pinterest had offered, says Frank Fumarola, product manager. While Pinterest launched advertising last year, its targeting options weren’t “up to snuff,” he says. “That’s something we all know. But we’re also a new ad platform and we’re just getting started ramping up our hiring and offerings,” he says.

Throughout 2016 Pinterest plans to roll out more targeting options, ad formats and better measurement options, Fumarola says. In doing so it aims to capture a larger share of retailers’ marketing budgets.

The social network’s pitch is that the data that Pinterest gathers reflects a shopper’s intent—for example, her interest in new sandals, which makes it more valuable than the largely demographic-based data gathered by other platforms. “We think that our knowledge of our users coupled with retailers’ knowledge of their customers creates something very valuable,” he says.


The numbers bear that out. 55% of Pinterest users use the social network to shop or find products, according to “Internet Trends 2016,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Mary Meeker’s presentation on the state of the internet. That far outpaces its closest competitors Facebook (12%), Instagram (12%) and Twitter (9%).

While Facebook and Twitter both offer tools like Lookalike list targeting, Fumarola says Pinterest’s unique positioning will give retailers new options. For example, while a retailer like David’s Bridal might use Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences tool to find consumers similar to its customers the common traits are largely demographics like gender, age, location and income level, he says. Pinterest, conversely uses information such as women interacting with wedding-related pins, which could be a prime audience for a retailer like David’s Bridal.

Pinterest says businesses that have tested the new targeting options have generated dramatic results. For some, visitor retargeting increased click-through rates threefold. For others, lookalike targeting increased click-through rates as much as 63% and boosted reach up to 30 times.