There was a great article in Adweek recently that calls out the large number of 404 errors many pins point to as brands rotate products and take down pages that have products that aren't available any longer. Curalate, an amazing tool that (among tons of other features) uses image recognition technology to "see" which images are being pinned, says that "48 percent of top retailers’ most popular products on Pinterest link back to expired pages." Their CEO, Apu Gupta, raises a very important question: How much money are these brands leaving on the table?

So I went to Pinterest in search of some offenders. From least to most effective, here's how three fashion retailers are handling referral traffic to out of date items.

American Eagle American Eagle Pinterest Error This is probably the worst-case scenario. The user doesn't know if it was just a bad link or if the product is out of stock or why they reached the error page. There's a "Continue Shopping" button, which is helpful, but the bare minimum.  

Charlotte Russe charlotte-russe_pinterest This page essentially says the same thing as the American Eagle 404 error page, but at least it's got a creative twist. It also points out the search function and customer support as a possible solutions for the user. If you can't offer the customer what they want, at least offer them some options.  

Anthropologie anthropologie_pinterest Anthropologie gets closer to what I think is best by actually leaving the product page up and noting that the item isn't available. You can't see it in this screenshot, but at the bottom of the page, they have some "Other items you might like." So, if the customer scrolls far enough down the page, they might see something else they like and continue shopping.  

Recommendation

Don't make it complicated for customers to find things they want to buy from you. If you're no longer selling the product, help them find something else they may like or give them some other options. Curalate offers a service where they can add a coupon to your 404 page based on other popular items from your store, but I think brands can and should own this experience, because it provides some great opportunities. Let's look at an example from Nordstrom. Here's their current out of stock page look:

Nordstrom Pinterest error

Here's how I'd design the page: Pinterest 404 done right

I moved the product description under the image and the "Out of Stock" warning a little closer to (but not covering or obstructing the view of) the product. In the area where the description was, I added in some suggested alternate items and an option to receive related email(s). By adding an option to email a customer if an item comes back in stock, the company does a few beneficial things:

  1. It offers to help a customer who wants to buy the product -- it's just good service.
  2. It helps build the brand's CRM and user profile of the customer so they can begin sending better recommendations to that customer.
  3. If you're a company that has options to restock items based on customer demand, this could be a great way to gauge the interest level. If not, you can at least get some data to help with future purchasing volume decisions.

Offering a weekly Pinterest digest is an easy way to get more inbox real estate. Keeping the weekly digest focused on the brand's top pinned items has a "user generated content" feel and doesn't seem like a spammy marketing email. Brands can certainly add in a bit of additional content (exclusive coupon or news), but the email should be focused on delivering the Pinterest content.  

Many brands are seeing strong conversion rates from Pinterest, so it would be very beneficial to step back and take a look at the user experience for those customers. Are you making them jump through hoops to give you their money? If you don't have the time and resources to build a custom solution, look into tools like Curalate, so you're at least addressing the problem and hopefully not leaving money on the table.  

Have you seen any other great examples of brands optimizing the experience for referral traffic from Pinterest? I'd love to hear your thoughts or any examples in the comments!