Change is in the air for Pinterest, whether due to a possible acquisition by payments giant PayPal or through its own self-described "revamp" of the platform, including new partners, layout changes, Idea Pin shopping features and a creator rewards program.
On the latter point, the company revealed a slew of updates this week for Idea Pins, Pinterest's multipage video format formerly known as Story Pins - including tying them to Amazon shopping, opening up product tagging and integrating shopping recommendations and augmented reality try-ons.
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The attention to Idea Pins will be evident immediately, with a modified layout that highlights a Browse tab and a new Watch tab.
"[It's] a whole new feed experience. We're redesigning the home feed that allows people to both consume browse-oriented content and also be able to dive in deeper with a new Watch tab that's immersive," Naveen Gavini, Pinterest's senior vice president of product, told WWD. "It's full screen, it shows just Idea Pins, and people can engage with fresh content directly from creators, so it really has all the best Idea Pins that are personalized to that person's tastes and preferences."
As for the pins themselves, Pinterest is expanding its shopping power by tying into the Amazon Associates Program. When the company launched product tagging for Idea Pins in July, it revealed arrangements with affiliate partners like Rakuten and ShopStyle.
Now Amazon is on board, allowing Pinterest influencers to use affiliate links from its massive e-commerce ranks, immediately making millions of more products available.
"Creators can now share the inspirational content our customers love on Pinterest while delivering an easy shoppable experience across the millions of items available on Amazon. Amazon Associates is always looking to introduce new ways for creators to share products they love while increasing their earning potential and Idea Pins do just that," said Matt Watson, director, Amazon Associates.
Product tagging for Idea Pins already went live in the U.S. and the U.K., but is now available for all users.
Personalized shopping recommendations are also making their way to the video format. Driven by visual search, the update means that Idea Pins can do more than peddle specific product. Idea Pins can now act as a jumping-off point that lets consumers seek out other items that look similar to those in the posts, informed by their behaviors on the platform.
"We do our best with trying to understand and then build recommendations for you, a lot of it based on the tastes that you express on the platform and what you interact with, and what similar people who have similar tastes kind of interact with," Gavin explained. "Then we try to make that connection of things that you might like."
The cascade effect will likely drive more transactions across Pinterest, while giving consumers more reason to stay on the platform. But it's not entirely clear how encouraging shoppers to explore other products, pins or Pinterest accounts helps the originating creator.
Gavini explained that this update is not about fast transactions, but more of a long game.
"We see creators creating for all sorts of different reasons, right? Some are creating to really just inspire, some are creating to monetize. So people have different goals," he said. "I think it's going to be attractive, based on the kind of goals that you have.
"Ultimately, these are all things that we want to try to tie into our creator rewards program. And so, allowing creators to be rewarded for that journey, even if it's not your particular pin and even if you lead to a purchase downstream from a brand. We want to try to connect brands with creators that do that. And so that's kind of our long term aspiration," Gavini added.
The monetization and rewards program, Pinterest's first, launches now with a sizable investment.
"In the U.S., we're investing $20 million to support creators, rewarding them for building a presence on the platform and engaging their community to take action on those inspiring ideas that they published," Gavin added. Pinterest creators will also be in good stead, he added, as the company partnered with high-profile creators Storm Reid, Megan Thee Stallion and Jennifer Lopez on new content series for the platform.
Another feature coming to Idea Pins draws on one of the most influential technologies in the beauty biz: virtual try-ons. Creators select the "try-on" sticker and search for an AR-enabled product - there are more than 10,000, according to Pinterest - to add to their pin. Fans can click to see what they look like wearing different shades and shop directly from the pin.
Pinterest, perhaps above all of the other social media platforms, always seemed like a natural fit for shopping. As a digital equivalent of shareable mood boards, the concept of inspiration is in its DNA, and the company draws heavily on that as a differentiating factor in its pursuit of social commerce. After all, the business of retail and the activity of shopping has always been about what inspires consumers.
Judging by its development path and platform updates over the past couple of years, the company seems determined to take this concept as far as it can go, and the latest moves only seem to underscore the idea. Now, there's at least one company that appears to have gotten the memo: PayPal, which is reportedly looking into acquiring Pinterest for a deal that may be worth as much as $45 billion.
Pinterest's changes land during a time when the broader internet is mulling over this proposition. The company declined a WWD request for comment on the matter, but the scenario has intrigued industry watchers. Some are, frankly, baffled by the notion, while others see the upside in such a deal.
Gary E. Barnett, chief executive officer of Semafone, a payment security solutions company, points to a study from his company that revealed 56 percent of consumers do not want to share payment details over social media.
"With PayPal potentially being the primary payment method for Pinners buying their latest sources of inspiration, they have tremendous control over the entire consumer experience from ease of transacting to security, something they have great experience in," he said.