Women account for most online retail purchases—58% according to a study by the Center for Emerging Female Leadership, which also found that 22% of women shop online at least once a day. Retailers seeking to reach those women shoppers need to be active on Pinterest, the fastest-growing of the major online social networks.

More than a fifth of Americans are now signed up for Pinterest, according to a December 2013 report from the Pew Internet Research Center, up from 15% a year earlier. That made Pinterest the third most-used social network, behind Facebook and LinkedIn. What’s more, 6% of adults signed up for Pinterest In 2013, compared to 4% who signed up for Facebook and 2% for Twitter. If this trend continues through 2014, Pinterest will surpass LinkedIn to become the second most-used social network behind only Facebook.

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And Pinterest, a site where consumers can collect or “pin” images from around the web, is especially appealing to women. One-third of women in the U.S. use Pinterest, up from the 25% Pew reported in February 2013. Just 8% of men use Pinterest. Among all consumers who earn $75,000 or more a year, 27% use the site.

The sales power of Pinterest

Most consumers don’t visit Pinterest several times a day, the way many use Facebook or Twitter. In fact, less than a quarter of Pinterest users head to the site every day, while just under half say they log on less than once a week. But when Pinterest users do check out the site, they are likely to make a purchase based on pins from people and brands they follow.

According to a study from Sprout Insights, Pinterest users are 10% more likely to buy a product they see compared to customers referred from other social networking sites. Another study from Shopify found that orders driven by Pinterest are substantially larger than those produced by Facebook or Twitter.

internet retailer, retail sales, social media marketing, A study done by Piqora showed each “pin” a user attaches to a board is worth, on average, 78 cents in sales to the brand featured. The study analyzed data from 1,000 brands over a period of nine months ending October 31, 2013 and also found that sales-per-pin has risen 25% since December 2012.

For retailers, a digital strategy including Pinterest can pay off huge dividends. For example, Etsy.com, which features hand-made and vintage items sold by small merchants, claims increased sales after investing in the shaping of its brand image on Pinterest. The company had a team post new products daily to boards, drawing from Etsy items as well as content from other sites. One Etsy shop owner, Rachael Ball of Elephantine, was able to directly tie an increase in site views and sales to Pinterest, according to the Pinterest blog. Ball says her effort on Pinterest has contributed to a 22% increase in page views and a 20% increase in sales.

In order to be most effective on Pinterest, brands should do the following:

  • Make sure Pinterest images link correctly to the brand’s web site. Many brands fall short because the link from the pin to the site is broken, no longer exists or leads to a generic landing page instead of a page featuring the item pictured.
  • Use high-resolution images. Images that are eye-catching and polished entice the user to view the pin and make a purchase.
  • Include well-written description of the pinned item, including the price—when a dollar amount is included, it is showcased directly on the pinned image.

Following these three tips ensures consumers will get all the information they need about the product while looking at the pin. Linking the pin directly to a purchase page encourages the user to make the purchase right away; that’s more effective than driving a shopper to a home page and leaving it to her to find the product on the site.

If retailers want to get the attention of women, their digital strategy must include Pinterest. Research shows Pinterest users rely on the site to help them make purchasing decisions more often than any other social network. As Pinterest grows its market share, it will prove a logical option for retailers to showcase their products and promote purchases on their web sites, especially to women.

This article was originally published on InternetRetailer.com.

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