Pinterest Pumps New Life Into Social Commerce

Pinterest eCommerce Social Commerce Social Selling Amazon Google

Pinterest is on a mission to pump new lifeblood into Social Commerce! Born in 2010, Pinterest has today over 100 million of subscribers, 55% in the United States. As we all know, Pinterest is a social platform based on images. Pins can instantly get the attention of users and drive them to check out their links. Thanks to this, users can connect with commercial intent, not only to watch to the photos their friends and family pinned. In fact, people often browse Pinterest for ideas, like what to wear in a particular occasion or how to plate food. And when they find stimulating inspiration, many times it leads them to something they would like to buy. That is why Pinterest is the ideal social media to advertise products and services with a strong visual impact such as clothing, crafts or tourism. 

According to the results of a study Pinterest conducted with its partner Oracle Data Cloud, 93% of active pinners use this social media to plan for purchases and another 87% have made a purchase after seeing a product they liked on the platform. However, many believe that Pinterest is not fully exploiting this potential: in other words, it is not the social commerce hub it should and could be. Statistics still show that, among the Social Media Platforms that drive the most sales, Pinterest is still behind others channels, for example Facebook. We must recognize that Facebook's success in this sense is also due to a quantitative matter, because it has a lot more users than Pinterest. Actually, if we consider data in proportion to the current amount of traffic, Facebook and Pinterest have similar conversion rates. Still, Pinterest has what it takes to do much better. 

But it seems to be moving in that very direction. Pinterest is working on some new features that will boost Social Commerce and aid both consumers and businesses. So far, it only released Buyable Pins for this specific purpose and, by the way, they only worked within Pinterest’s mobile apps. These new features are a big step in helping Pinterest become more of a shopping hub. Besides, it is something retailers, producers and marketers have been waiting so long for. 

The new San Francisco headquarters certainly aims high. In some ways, Pinterest is planning to become even better than Amazon and Google in helping people to find items and buy them. Sure, it is a long way to that top; nonetheless, Pinterest is trying to catch up with its competitors and raise the stakes through cutting-edge technology. Let’s examine in detail 4 new products Pinterest is launching. Some of them are quite “standard”, meaning that they increase Pinterest’s performance but are not so original for a cross-platform. Others introduce surprisingly advanced search features that will give users a shopping experience they can’t have in any other commerce sites. 

1. Buyable Pins To The Web 

As we mentioned, Pinterest’s first step into effective Social Commerce were Buyable Pins, which debuted in June 2015. In short, they are Buy buttons that allow users to purchase items directly from the bulletin boards. Users can click on pinned products and see their price; they can also choose all details like color, size, and quantity. Once they have finished, they can click on the Buy button and complete the transaction with credit card or Apple Pay services. The site stated that 2 million products are on sale every day. 

Until now, Buyable Pins were only available via Pinterest’s iOS and Android apps. The latest news say that the site is expanding this feature bringing Buy buttons to the web: soon, shoppers browsing Pinterest boards on their laptops will be able to purchase items, as well. The reason for this is that, according to Pinterest’s studies, 84% of people who shop from their mobile phones also shop on their laptops. 

2. New Shopping Bag 

Pinterest is working on a new Shopping Bag, very similar to E-Commerce virtual carts. Social Commerce shoppers can fill it with the Buyable Pins they find during their journey across the boards. Once they are ready to check out and conclude their shopping, all their items will be there, waiting to be bought. The good thing about this feature is that consumers can buy multiple products from different merchants at once, just like in Amazon's checkout page. Again like Amazon, merchants will be able to create dedicated pages displaying all the merchandise being sold through Pinterest and will suggest items that a user might want to buy. 

The Shopping Bag can be accessed on every digital device. That is to say that people can start their shopping connecting to Pinterest by smartphone, maybe on their train back from work, and then check out from their computer at home. 

3. Advanced Visual Search 

Pinterest is also rolling out new ways to search and find products within pins. In order to do that, it will employ an advanced level of artificial intelligence: this is probably what will give Pinterest the opportunity to stand out among titans like Amazon or Google. Starting on the apps for iPhone and iPad, this new feature will let people use visual search to look for similar items shown within a pin. For example, someone looking for a cushion featured within a pin will be able to search for similar items by clicking on the dots that Pinterest will place on that cushion and all the other objects recognized in the picture. 

The company will also launch camera search. People will tap the camera button at the right of the search box and open up the camera on their mobile device. Then, they will be able to shoot a picture of something they find interesting: instead of coming to Pinterest to receive suggestions, people will somehow bring Pinterest in the real world. From there, the app will respond by showing dots over some of the objects that are recognized in the picture: tapping on those dots, users will get those products highlighted and see pins of similar objects below. The object detected in the image will also carry tags to describe them. The technology is based on a particular type of artificial intelligence that involves training artificial neural networks on lots of data and then getting them to make inferences about new data. 

4. Merchant Profiles 

This is a “standard” feature, but it will surely take Pinterest to a higher level on the Social Commerce point of view. These Merchant Profiles will allow consumers to see only what specific brands or producers propose. For each Buyable Pin we will see other products from that specific vendor. Under a pin of a Kate Spade bag, for example, Pinterest will show a few other bags from that same brand. Users will also be able to choose the most popular items, special offers or promotional sales. So, that is something other platforms already have, but that will make it increasingly easier for people to buy items on this one. 

In conclusion we are curious about these new features and we can’t wait to see how they will change the shopping experience on Pinterest. What we can already assume is that this media has finally decided to capture the title of natural habitat for Social Commerce. The decision to extend its Buyable Pins and to roll out a new Shopping Bag, visual search opportunities and Merchants Profiles bears witness to the fact that Pinterest has high ambitions: top of the list, to be the best platform positioned at the crossroads of social networking and online search. 

Besides, it is worth pointing out that this seems to be the perfect moment for Pinterest to invest its resources in commerce. Pinterest doesn’t make money from its Buy buttons, at least not yet. Its primary revenue stream is through advertising, similar to fellow social media company Facebook. But Facebook's position toward paid advertising is now changing: a few days ago, in fact, VP Adam Mosseri announced that the Facebook News Feed algorithm will soon be updated and it will favor personal and engaging content over sponsored posts. This is a further opportunity for Pinterest to attract investment. That is further reason for us to look forward with anticipation to its future developments. 

Guest Author Michela Aru is a website strategy copywriter, social media marketer and consultant for NetStrategy headquartered in Verona, Italy.

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