Buy It or Pin It. New home improvement show? No, it’s Pinterest’s new feature!

Around three months ago I was invited to a baby shower. Ahead of that joyous occasion I looked at nursery items online at a few furniture stores and on the soon-to-be-parents gift registry on Amazon. I ended up buying, with a credit card, a few baby clothes and nursery items. Fast forward to after the birth a few weeks ago when I bought the tired parents a box of diapers and wipes, each at a different store. Why am I telling you all this? Because evidently, according to a sophisticated marketing algorithm, I have been labeled “pregnant” and I am inundated with emails and online ads for anything and everything baby related. As early pregnancy is the best time to start marketing to expectant mothers and since a new baby is a very profitable moment for retailers, advertisers are on the lookout for even the slightest indication of pregnancy.

This is behavioral advertising: I looked at a few things, I bought a few more, and the conclusion is that I’m pregnant. My demographics fit and my behavior sealed the deal.

It’s also very, very wrong.

Targeting advertising based on demographics and behavior is challenging. Facebook is not bad at it as it knows so much about their users’ demographics, interests, and social ties, but even Facebook has a hard time displaying the right ad at exactly the right time. Google search advertising tends to be more relevant as a search query shows a user’s real-time intent. Google takes the demographics, search history and social connections it knows about a user and ties everything to the search query just entered. Very often, the pregnancy-that-wasn’t aside, Google ads are relevant for me, and get my clicks.

All this brings me to Pinterest’s announcement this week about the launch of mobile-only, iOs only “Buyable Pins.” Buyable Pins are, well, just that: Pins for goods (and from Pinterest’s blog, there will be variations such as all ingredients in a recipe) that users can buy by pressing a blue “Buy It” button that appears on that Pin. Pins that are buyable will have both the red “Pin It” button and a blue “Buy It” button and some will allow users to select a different color than the one picked. TechCrunch clarified the process in an interview with Tim Kendall, Pinterest’s GM of Monetization, that brands will not be able to promote their own Buyable Pins. Those business “are going to have to rely on organic traffic to drive sales for their products for the time being,” said Mr Kendall. This is a nice touch because if indeed “two-thirds of the content on Pinterest is made by businesses,” turning all those Pins into Buyable Pins would overwhelm and potentially drive away users.

What Pinterest has the potential to do based on the demos that I have seen is to significantly reduce friction in the mobile purchasing process. Kendall mentioned interesting stats: the “drop-off in conversion to a sale between desktop and mobile devices is around 75  percent” and “around 80 percent of Pinterest’s users access it through mobile devices.” The latter explains why the feature is launching only on mobile for now and the former shows the potential of this feature.

Because of the way Pinterest is built, around users’ interests and hobbies, searches on Pinterest have a very strong correlation to a high intent to purchase. “Around 87 percent of Pinterest users have bought a product after discovering it on Pinterest, Kendall said.” In my example from earlier, looking at pictures of baby nurseries on Pinterest might indicate I’m in the market to buy nursery furniture, but not that I’m pregnant. This specificity can help marketers hone their pitches to buyers who are really interested in their products and brands.

My Pinterest Pin: a Furla purse.

My Pinterest Pin: a Furla purse.

Finally, I am not an avid Pinterest pinner but it is very telling that my most re-pinned and liked Pin is of a purse I adored when it was featured, but sold out, on BlueFly. It’s also a very specific, well defined product. It’s not just a black purse, it’s the Furla “New Giselle” Shopper Tote. It would make a lot of sense to add a Buy It button to it and I don’t think users will care who the vendor is, only that the exact purse is delivered in a timely manner.

It will be fascinating to watch Pinterest introduce more monetization on the site and app while keeping users happy and Pinning. Curious to see what other products they’ll create.


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