What makes Pinterest so shoppable?: Q&A with Product Manager Tim Weingarten

Most social networks have tried—and struggled—to become shoppable, an area where Pinterest is thriving. According to internal data, 87% of Pinterest users have made a purchase because of content they found on the platform.

Pinterest has become increasingly more shoppable over the years and Tim Weingarten, a product manager in commerce, has been an integral reason why. He joined Pinterest in 2015 when the company acquired The Hunt, a mobile app Weingarten co-founded, which which helps shoppers find products they see in photos.

Weingarten believes Pinterest is inherently shoppable in a way that social media doesn’t tend to be, which highlights how different the platform actually is.

“We get lumped in with social networks all the time, but our people element is really a community,” explains Weingarten, who thinks Pinterest has more in common with Google than with Facebook. “It’s not social in the sense of people liking each other’s stuff. It’s more collaborative, with people helping others reach their goals and objectives.”

How else has Pinterest, which increased monthly active usership 67% to 250 million people over the past two years, evolved during Weingarten’s time there? We spoke about visual search, the product he finds most exciting and what’s next.

ClickZ: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen during your time at Pinterest?

Tim Weingarten: Pinterest has historically been known as this platform of inspiration, a place you went when you were just starting out looking for an initial spark. As a product manager, one of the most exciting things to me is how we ramped up investment on the doing side. That means focusing on shopping, and building design and engineering teams around shopping. Making sure recipes have ratings and projects are buildable: The whole idea of “do” is critical to our mission.

CZ: You don’t seem to struggle with commerce the way so many other social platforms do. What is it that makes Pinterest inherently shoppable?

TW: Anybody can copy a user interface; it happens all the time in Silicon Valley. The critical difference is something you can’t replicate or copy, and that’s mindest. People use Pinterest to achieve something, like a project or an intent they have in mind. It’s almost like pre-shopping. With the objective of wanting to spruce up your living room, you pivot that through our search interface. You see an ottoman you like and from there, it starts to make sense.

Living rooms on Pinterest

From a loose objective, wanting to update the living room, you’ve developed a specific interest in gray ottomans. That’s when you start looking at actual products. It’s just the nature of these categories; we didn’t have to build a shopping tab.

CZ: Tell us about your evolution into more of a search platform.

TW: One strong signal was our vast volume of queries. In some categories, you might even seen more queries on Pinterest than on Google. On top of that, the growth rate of visual queries is so much faster than that of text queries. There are some things you can’t describe in words that an image captures better. That’s great for shopping. So many people go on Pinterest because we’re a lean-in search platform, rather than a lean-back “I’m bored” platform.

CZ: What’s the product you’re most excited about?

TW: Shop the Look[Editor’s note: Shop the Look Pins contain white dots, which users can click on; they’re brought to product pages on retailers’ websites.] There’s this very strong feeling you have when you look at an image that captures your eye and you’re stuck. Shop the Look solves the problem. Creators can tag their images and we distribute them with Shop the Look content. We also do it ourselves with visual search on older images. I like that it brings value for the products being utilized; the Pinner, whose problem is solved; and the content creator, who’s building affiliate revenue.

CZ: What can we look forward to from Pinterest?

TW: From my team, you’re going to see products in stock be increasingly personalized and relevant. When you encounter a product on Pinterest, it won’t just be any product, but something that matches your tastes, style and brands you have an affinity for. The challenge with ecommerce personalization is that it only works when you have massive amounts of engagement data, not just transaction data. Our huge advantage is that we have engagement data on products. Pins links to products and as an extension, we can take all the power of personalization and directly map it to products.

Want more from Pinterest? Click here to register for our Transformation of Search Summit, where Head of Market Development Vikram Bhaskaran will speak about visual search and ecommerce.

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