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Thursday, June 11, 2015
Pinterest Brings E-Commerce to Social Bookmarking With a Buy Button - NYTimes Blogs · by Mike Isaac
Pinterest, the online social scrapbooking service, has long claimed to help people discover new things in the real world. Soon users will be able to buy those things, too.
The San Francisco company announced Tuesday that it would offer the ability to buy products from inside of pinned items, in what is its first foray into e-commerce on its service. The new product, named “buyable pins,” allows sellers large and small to place a “Buy it” button on items that they post to the site.
Founded in 2009 by the entrepreneur Ben Silbermann and some of his colleagues, Pinterest quickly caught on as a sort of digital scrapbook where people could save things that drew their interest online. A user may come across an interesting pair of jeans on the web, for example, and “pin” a photo of those jeans to a Pinterest board. The idea was that users could collect items that they may find or buy later.
But there was no way to purchase items directly on Pinterest, so for many users, the idea of buying their saved items was largely aspirational. That changes with buyable pins, as Pinterest, which has raised more than $1.3 billion in venture capital, works to justify its valuation of $11 billion. While the company does not disclose its number of users, estimates place its audience in the United States at more than 75 million, according to the online analytics firm comScore.
With buyable pins, Pinterest has teamed up with major retailers like Cole Haan, Ethan Allen, Kate Spade and Macy’s. More than two million blue “Buy it” buttons will appear on products posted to Pinterest by these companies. Payments made through the service will be powered by Stripe, an e-commerce start-up that focuses on small and midsize online businesses. Braintree, a payments processing company owned by PayPal, will also handle processing.
Other merchants will be able to sell items on Pinterest using Shopify, which does the heavy lifting of online commerce for smaller, independent businesses.
The move is a major moneymaking opportunity for Pinterest and perhaps an obvious one for the company, which has been around for close to six years but has only recently pushed heavily into generating revenue. In December, the company introduced its first major advertising effort with its “promoted pins” product; the announcement Tuesday is the company’s first real effort at building an e-commerce site.
Pinterest does not plan to make money off e-commerce the traditional way, by taking a cut of retailers’ transactions. Instead, the company said, it would make money selling promoted-pins advertisements to retailers, who can then insert buyable pins into those ads.
“We believe that if we focus on building an incredible experience for pinners, we’ll create a very big business down the line,” said Tim Kendall, general manager for monetization at Pinterest.
Mr. Kendall said 87 percent of Pinterest’s users had purchased items they found on the site and that two-thirds of the content on Pinterest came from businesses.
“The reality is that the experience is already a commercial experience,” he said.
It is also an effort to make shopping for items on mobile devices much easier. On many sites, customers are forced to enter their address and credit card information before purchasing an item, a task that is particularly difficult on a mobile phone. Over the years, retailers and payment companies like Stripe and PayPal have tried many ways to simplify that process to limit what is called customer drop-off, the point at which people leave without buying the items in their online shopping carts.
With buyable pins, consumers do not need to re-enter payment information every time they want to buy an item.
“Buyable pins is Pinterest’s effort to make shopping specifically for your phone,” Mr. Silbermann said at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Pinterest is not the first company to experiment with the medium. Twitter also works with Stripe to let customers buy items within posts. And Stripe and Braintree work with Facebook on various mobile payments products.
Farhad Manjoo contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on 06/03/2015, on page B4 of theNewYork edition with the headline: Pinterest Adding ‘Buy It’ Button to Retailers’ Posts.