Pinterest has been gleaning its visual insights to offer brand partners data-backed advice on how and when to display products in the offline world.
The brand has quietly been building its back end into an image library filled with meta-tags, primarily to make sure it can smoothly transition into a shoppable platform – a goal that its head of sales, Jon Kaplan, describes as the “overall focus of the company”.
However by turning its Pins into a data-rich “visual discovery engine” that will one day be ready to shop, Pinterest has begun using its insights into a consultancy business for brands in the offline world. The platform is able to inform retailers which products couplings generate the most user interest, advice that can be translated to its stylists and merchandisers.
For instance if a lifestyle shot of a brand’s handbag paired with a T-shirt is receiving an unprecedented amount of online interest, Pinterest would advise the fashion brand to display the two products side-by-side in store
In doing so, Pinterest is cutting out the middle men of trend consultants and visual merchandisers for its partners.
“I would say this trend analysis insight, which informs how they merchandise, that we give to our top partners is something we do pretty consistently,” said Kaplan, a former Google vice president. “Everyone wants to tap into the latest trends and the latest styles.”
Pinterest is also advising brands on when they should best display certain products. Last year it combed its data and advised DIY retailer Home Depot to roll out Halloween products in stores three weeks earlier than it had done in the past, having noticed a spike in Pinners searching for the holiday in August.
“The store managers were calling the chief marketing officer and saying: ‘what did you do? I’m selling out and I’ve never sold it this early in the year',” recalled Kaplan. “It was all based on our insights. Every conversation we’re having here is about how we understand consumer behaviours better.”
Pinterest’s consumer-facing analysis, which is compiled in its annual Top 100 chart, has also led to its first foray offline – a partnership with the subscription box firm Fab Fit Fun. The two companies partnered to create a bespoke box of 10 fashion and beauty products informed by the items that Pinterest had earmarked as 'emerging trends' . Delivered to its subscribers in the US, the boxes retailed at $49.99.
“It’s one of the first times Pinterest has become an offline thing,” said Kaplan. “We’re taking the trends and making them available.”
Pinterest’s quest to make trends easily accessible will be accomplished when it becomes a fully shoppable site.
Kaplan said the inability to buy directly from the platform is “the biggest complaint we get from users”. The criticism is, for him, “an awesome problem for us to solve, and it’s really clear that if we can solve that core user behaviour challenge then we can also build advertisers inside that.”
The company has been dealing with a number of advertiser wish lists over the last 12 months, including a wide-scale ‘shop the look’ functionality. Pinterest has already rolled out these special pins in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France and Japan, however the format is currently restricted to select brand partners and influencers pages.
And advertisers working with Pinterest may still have wait longer before they’re tempted with shoppable ad formats. Kaplan said the platform's efforts are – for now – focused in the organic non-paid realm in order to make shopping via the site “a behaviour” for its users.
Will the roll out of paid-for shoppable ads arrive to the detriment of traditional digital advertising sales, especially those from the ‘shopping ads’ format that rolled out widely only four months ago? Kaplan believes it will have the opposite effect.
“What we’ve heard [brands] say is, ‘how can we both inspire and transact?’ We could become this full funnel provider of inspiration and action – and that’s a home run for everybody.”