Pinterest Thinks the Future Lies in Visual Discovery—and Wants Retailers to Take Notice

There's more power to the platform than just pinning

Ben Silbermann, CEO and co-founder of Pinterest, spoke about the power of visual discovery at Shoptalk.
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Pinterest is trying to prove that it’s a visual discovery platform that can actually drive purchases and a connection for brands.

That’s not to say the company has it all figured out, but Pinterest is trying to understand the consumer behavior that drives a visual discovery with an action, said Amy Vener, retail vertical strategy lead at Pinterest.

In a keynote at Shoptalk, a retail conference in Las Vegas, Ben Silbermann, CEO and co-founder of Pinterest discussed how visual discovery will be a key part of the future and how we use a camera will expand beyond just taking photos.

“I think in the very near future, people are going to query the world around them all the time,” Silbermann said. “Its going to open up the possibility for retail experiences to happen anywhere where you are.”

Those retail moments are why Pinterest is invested in making retailers happy, as well driving back its users, dubbed “pinners,” back to a brand’s site.

“What we’re really good at is giving you the power of browsing, like you do in a traditional store environment and bringing that window shopping in a more relevant way visually and that discovery angle,” Vener said. “[This] is where we think we have a unique opportunity to help retailers gain new customers, continue relationships with existing customers and activate lapsed customers.”

The company doesn’t want to become a site where transactions take place; it just wants to help its users find products they’re looking for and work with retailers to help that search experience.

This focus also means that Pinterest is working against the idea that it’s another social media platform like Instagram or Snapchat. Vener shared that it doesn’t fully capture what Pinterest can do with visual discovery.

As Pinterest doubles down on its visually focused mission, it’s also expanding its ad capabilities for retailers and business. On Monday, the company announced that more businesses will be able to use Pinterest Shopping Ads and that it’s testing new types of ad units that focus on different product looks and images that resonate with a consumer’s lifestyle.

“We pride ourselves in helping the consumer from the initial inspiration through to the actual experience of purchase,” Vener said.

And there’s a lot of room for retailers to win with customers on Pinterest. Vener shared 97 percent of users searches are unbranded—meaning there’s more room for brands to develop visual ads and discovery for consumers.

“The fundamental core of what pinners are doing is not to connect with people—its to connect with brands that inspire them and to do things in real life,” Vener said. “And that means they need brand content to have a reason to get back what is they’re looking for.”

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.