Pinterest Gets a Brand New Shopping Bag

About a year ago “buy buttons” were all the rage as the next big thing in social commerce.

The logic was sound – social media platforms are full of users who are talking about, reviewing and sharing products of all shapes and sizes.  Why not embed a button that makes them able to convert – on the spot – while they are looking/thinking/talking about whatever it is?  Seems like an obvious choice and a step in the right direction of contextual commerce.  Which is probably why so many social media companies adopted some version or other of it. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest – all had their see it, want it, buy it button.

But as it turns out, some social media sites are more given to commerce than others.  Twitter went big on buy buttons, to find out that people use Twitter for three basic purposes: (1)argue with strangers, (2)recap their lives in real time or (3) run for president. Less than a year after launching it, Twitter decided to pull the plug and re-center its efforts developing itself as a mobile advetising platform elsewhere.

But Pinterest, perhaps to the surprise of no one anywhere given its essential design as a bulletin board for its various users’ “favorite things” (to steal a term from Oprah), has always been rather given to commerce-related extensions and has long billed itself as the web’s logical choice for social shopping.

The recent slate of improvements it has announced, however, indicates that perhaps Pinterest thinks it can do a little bit better than that.  Instead of being the one of the best destinations on the web for social commerce – Pinterest seems to be deciding to drop the “social” from that sentence and compete with the likes of Amazon directly.

The New Shopping Cart 

Primary among the new upgrades coming soon to the Pinterest platform is its addition of a shopping cart of the type that exists on just about every eCommerce site out there.  Consumers – as they travel around the site – click and collect items they are interested in buying before settling up on a checkout page.  Michael Yamartino, Pinterest’s head of commerce, noted that the development of the cart was an extension of the potential buyable pins revealed.

“When we launched buyable pins last year, we launched with a quick and easy buying experience,” Yamartino said.

Quick and easy wasn’t quite enough, Yamartino told the LA times, because the customer still needed that part that more closely resembled that actual experience of shopping and gave consumers the chance to look at their potential purchases as a single set and think about them before money actually changes hands.

That upgrade is supported by another one Pinterest announced, which is that Buyable Pins are coming to the desktop version of the site – currently commerce on Pinterest is only possible through the mobile app.  The cart will also follow Pinterest users from one device to another – meaning shopping experiences can range from devices to the desktop and back with no fall off in capacity.

Pinterest’s shopping cart is definitely differentiating – neither Facebook nor Twitter has one.

Better Visual Search 

Though the shopping cart announcement won the headlines – the news that caught more analysts’ eyes was upgrades to Pinterest’s visual search. Going forward users can use images – from other Pinterest accounts, from around the web, from their own cameras – to search products and where to buy them.

“We hear people say all I time, ‘I found this on Pinterest but I don’t know where to buy it,’” said Michael Yamartino, Pinterest’s head of commerce, “so image detection and camera visual search will help with that.

The magic works through algorithms and learning AI – the code gets better at matching the images customers chose to the goods they want – and possibly makes goods discovery a much easier prospect for consumers.

And that, analysts, is an exciting development, particularly if Pinterest can “market the hell” out of its new feature set.

“Pinterest has a focus on product planning, discovery, and purchase, and there’s no one else — not Google, Facebook, or Snapchat — that has as much focus on it right now,” said Bob Gilbreath, chief executive of marketing firm Ahalogy, which specializes in marketing on Pinterest.

“Facebook and Snapchat are in a battle over video. YouTube is for large marketers and they’re all fighting over TV dollars. Pinterest is quietly becoming the evolution of search,” he said.




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