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How Paypal acquisition target Pinterest is capitalizing on the social commerce boom


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

October 21, 2021 | 6 min read

As rumors abound that it's a takeover target for Paypal, Pinterest is scaling up its social commerce capabilities for users and brands. Chief marketing officer Andrea Mallard tells us why the platform is pinning its commercial future on retail.

takes and talents

The ‘Takes’ activation is part of the next iteration of Pinterest

Pinterest’s users see it as a sanctuary from the rest of the internet. With its focus on inspiration rather than discourse and division, it is as safe an environment for users (and brands) as anywhere online. Despite that, the platform is having to adapt to changing user habits driven by trends elsewhere – and the rumors around an acquisition by PayPal seem based in part on its new capabilities.

To that end Pinterest has introduced a number of new tools and options, which both cater to user needs and to its future growth in social commerce. It has recently launched a prompts feature, which allows users to see which topics Pinterest believes will create the most engagement in the short-term future. In addition to a full-screen viewing option and a $20m creator payment fund, it is also launching Takes – a format inspired by the ability to remix other users’ content and creations first seen on other social platforms. The activation has idea pins and inspiration featuring celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Megan Thee Stallion and Storm Reid.

Andrea Mallard, chief marketing officer at Pinterest, says that the feature is an organic means for the content of other users and brands alike to persist over time. “People have always come to Pinterest hungry for ideas and ready to make them or to do them yourself ... so we wanted to create a really uniquely positive environment for creators that would foster, nurture and encourage much more meaningful engagement between creators in their communities.

“[Takes] is a way for us to ensure that the best ideas from creators can evolve over time, and they get better because people are building on them and contributing to them. It’s a much richer, more satisfying experience for creators. It also enables creators’ hard work to work harder on Pinterest because the idea can live on for years and years, as opposed to disappearing within a few minutes of being posted on the platform.”

The ephemeral shoppable

It builds upon previous work Pinterest has done to ensure that its content remains live – and shoppable – for longer. Its similar shoppable tool, for example, recommends similar products to users, even if the original item is discontinued or out of stock. It also announced it is expanding its product tagging tool to include the Amazon Associates Program so creators in the US can add affiliate links from Amazon and earn commission on qualifying purchases. According to its research, “shoppers who visit Pinterest weekly outspend non-Pinners by 2x every month and have an 85% larger basket size.”

Mallard says that extends the shelf life of content on the platform, and is also an answer to the ephemeral nature of much e-commerce. “If you’re a creator and you’ve shared something that’s shoppable that’s no longer in stock, let’s say six months later, a year later, we would automatically recommend an option that’s visually similar to whatever it is that you originally suggested ... even if it’s been some time since the original content was posted. This is available, not just on static and on the apps but also on video content, so it just makes everything more accessible, more shoppable ... and creators become a really big part of enabling that commerce to happen.”

Crucially, Mallard believes that in order to grow the number of social commerce transactions that occur on the platform and therefore its own revenue, Pinterest only needs to double down on catering to its existing users and brand partners. Noting that over the course of the pandemic the use case for Pinterest had grown, she argues that the platform only needs to continue catering for what users ask for rather than broadening its remit.

Given that Pinterest is most often seen as a source of inspiration, she notes that the brands that appear on the platform have access to a direct measure of interest rather than a proxy of it, as so often is the case elsewhere. “To see how my community was reacting in this deep way is not only a great source of insights for me as a brand, but it helps me know that I’m on the right track because people are willing to participate actively in my brand and in that world. I don’t need a massive crowd of people doing that, I need the right people doing it in the right way.

“We’ve been trained over the years that there are certain kinds of metrics that don’t often translate into business impact the way we would want it to or would expect it to. And so for me this new era of having a platform where more meaningful engagement is literally encouraged by design feels like a step in the right direction for all parties involved.”

With Pinterest making such a play for social commerce, based in large part on doubling down on the requests from users – individuals and brands alike – it’s set to reap the benefits of the rise in brand interest in e-commerce. With each user effectively their own influencer, and the new ability to extend the lifespan of content on the platform, it makes sense that online payment provider PayPal is interested in acquiring Pinterest to capture part of that growth story.

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