This is a dress I pinned on Pinterest. I like vintage dresses, and sometimes save pics of awesome ones that I’ll never be able to buy. 2379 people have repinned this so far.
This isn’t a #humblebrag. Seeing all of the repin notices got me thinking about what kind of curation experience Pinterest facilitates, why it resonates, and how monetizeable curated boards really are.
There have been a few great posts making the rounds lately about how user-generated social content on the web has been progressing from creation to curation. Social visual bookmarking has become a very popular tool for sharing and discovering content. Pinterest is by far the largest of the sites dedicated to this behavior, but several of the more niche communities also have a devoted following.
More eyes on a site means more appeal for marketers and businesses, especially when users are telegraphing their interests in a very granular way. Monetate has already released an infographic explaining the value of Pinterest to businesses. “Pin It” widgets are popping up on retail pages, and wedding blogs are rhapsodizing about the “pinability” of the Real Weddings they feature.
But there’s something interesting about what people are choosing to pin. Most of the things I see on these sites aren’t actually purchasable. There’s a lot of content that can best be classified as aspirational or inspirational. People are collecting images of beautiful things. So am I; most of my pins are things I can’t afford or that can’t be bought.
There’s a big divide between aspirational shopping (“window shopping”) and actual shopping (“purchasing something”). Most of the time, actual shopping isn’t all that exciting. The things people are most likely to spend money on are also the things they wouldn’t bother to pin; there’s nothing noteworthy about the socks and beige t-shirt I picked up at H&M today. Some of the specifically shopping-focused pinboard sites are trying to bridge that gap, but their lack of traction relative to Pinterest’s may indicate that for most people, pinning isn’t about a specific transaction.
For brands, gleaning monetizeable information from data is largely about discerning intent, and that’s a difficult problem. It’s particularly difficult in a situation where a person is ostensibly telegraphing their taste, but is really pinning the things they can’t buy. Some boards will signal intent, of course - I made one to keep track of gear I need for an upcoming hiking trip - but pinning behavior leans strongly towards collecting inspirational or aspirational images. It almost feels spammy to pin practical things. The Atlantic published an article wondering whether Pinterest actually makes users less likely to consume. They get the endorphin rush of pinning a $500 purse without the buyer’s remorse of actually purchasing it. It’s window shopping on Madison Avenue from the comfort of the couch.
None of this is meant to imply that there aren’t fantastic monetization opportunities to be had. Pinterest demographics as of late January 2012 indicate that users are 80% female, a majority are between 25-44 years old with 70% falling into the $25-$75k/year income bracket; that’s a market that loves e-commerce. But it’ll be interesting to see how pinning is worked into a psychographic profile when what most people are collecting is pictures of things they aren’t actually going to buy.
This is one of the reasons why I think Tumblr can crush Pinterest and Svpply in e-commerce if it chooses to.