June 30, 2016
Pinterest announced yesterday it was releasing a number of improvements to its buyable Pins which it initially released one year ago. Among the improvements are the ability to access buyable Pins on the web (they’d only been on mobile devices up to now), the ability to add multiple items to a shopping cart, the ability to save the cart and access it across devices, and better brand pages with shopping categories for merchants. Many of these may seem like obvious improvements but that’s exactly why it’s a big deal. Pinterest may finally be closer to actually closing the loop in eCommerce which it has yet to do.
Pinterest also made two other interesting announcements at the same time: improvements to its visual search feature. Visual search lets a user identify similar objects in any image. But now, Pinterest is putting dots in pictures to guide shoppers to click on those items to find other items. The other enhancement is that users can take pictures of say a handbag or shoe and find similar products on Pinterest. Slyce enables Neiman Marcus’ app shoppers to do just this already though Pinterest with its 75 billion pins is a much bigger resource for this kind of functionalty. Both improvements should increase time on site and engagement with Pinterest.
While Pinterest is clearly committed to commerce, social commerce continues to struggle. Most retailers say that search continues to dominate the digital marketing landscape and while these improvements are much-needed, they may not be enough for Pinterest to drive substantially more commerce. According to Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker, intent to buy on Pinterest is extremely high. That said, Pinterest still needs to have more buyable pins (only a fraction of the 75 billion Pins are buyable), they need more content on product detail pages (sizing charts and ratings and reviews are missing) and they need to help retailers integrate loyalty programs and promotions. Pinterest did share a study conducted with Oracle that says that there is significantly more offline influence on purchase intent from Promoted Pins (essentially Pinterest ads) than other display ads. While that is also a step in the right direction, we suspect the absolute numbers are still small.
Until Pinterest drives significantly more impressions and sales, it will never trump Facebook as an advertising or even commerce medium.