Why Pinterest pushes shopping over commerce


There’s a big difference today between the role of commerce, and that of shopping, says Tim Weingarten, head of shopping product at Pinterest, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“Commerce has this implication of pushing for the transaction – about reducing friction in the conversion. Whereas shopping is one of joy. It’s one of serendipity, it’s one of discovering something you didn’t know existed,” he explains.  

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It’s that mentality that underpins everything his team does at the company, focusing primarily on how to better the user experience with discovery and personalization at its core. This includes the introduction of a series of tools that filter and predict needs – from Pinterest Lens, which allows customers to find items from the database by photographing similar ones, to the newly announced Catalogs feature, where brands can upload their entire product catalog as shoppable pins.

What makes Pinterest stand out among its competitors, is that its users navigate the platform for entirely personal reasons, such as renovating their kitchens or achieving the perfect hairstyle, as opposed to pushing aspirational content to followers, Weingarten comments. Being able to capitalize on that then comes down to having the right algorithms in place.

“The more data you have, the more you can personalize. But on an e commerce site, the only data they have is based on prior transactions. That’s a very sparse dataset and it happens very infrequently. If you switch gears to Pinterest, what you have is someone visiting every day doing this authentic thing – saving things for particular use cases. This engagement signal can be applied to all products… And because we have this authentic form of engagement, we’re able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and actually personalize it to your tastes,” he says.

Pinterest has been around for nearly a decade with a quiet yet steady climb to the top. As of 2018, users on the platform had pinned 175 billion items on three billion virtual boards. The company is now on track to top $1bn in revenue, and is rumored to be moving forward with an IPO this summer at a valuation of $12bn.

During this conversation recorded at Shoptalk with the Current Global’s Rachel Arthur, Weingarten dissects how Pinterest is only getting better at predicting consumer needs before they’re voiced; shares how the platform balances being commercial with keeping the joy of inspiration alive, and hints at the types of technologies he’s looking at to further personalize the shopping experience.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.