One of the newest social networks, Pinterest, may be about to achieve something that neither Facebook, Google+ or Twitter have been unable to accomplish at scale. No, it’s not creating a social network made up almost entirely of women. Pinterest may be preparing to monetize all of those shared photos of things you wish you owned, which could make the social network one of the stickiest e-commerce destinations ever.
The Rise of Pinning
Unlike millions of women, I am not a fan of Pinterest. I have spent a total of 45 minutes on the site and at least 30 of those were to research an article. It seems I am again an anomaly.
According to data from comScore, Pinterest now has 11.7 million unique U.S. visitors per month. This means the infinitely scrolling photo collecting site has managed to attract 10 million unique visitors per month faster than any other standalone website in history. No, not just among social networks. Faster than any site in the U.S. Ever.
Users spend over 98 minutes on the site per month. Only Facebook, which consumes 7 hours of users’ time per month, and Tumblr, where users spend 2.5 hours each month, keep users’ attention longer.
According to Experian Hitwise, Pinterest is also number three, right behind Facebook and Twitter in terms of total visits. What’s even more notable, the majority of Pinterest users are women between 18 and 44, and almost 30 percent of visitors have an income of at least US$ 100,000.
The rapid growth of an engaged audience ripe for buying has left many industry observers wondering exactly how Pinterest planned on monetizing its popular site. We just received a big clue.
The large Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten has confirmed it is leading a US$ 100 million investment in Pinterest, which will help the network expand to more international markets and solidify its business model.
Pinning on Dollars
Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, expressed in the company’s official announcement how excited he is about combining the love Pinterest users have pinning things they might want to buy with his company’s model for e-commerce.
Rakuten is extremely strong in Japan. The company reports that 75 percent of Japanese Internet users have an account on their platform. However, the company’s reach is limited to Asia. Rakuten also owns Buy.com, France based Priceminister, Brazil based Ikeda, Germany based Tradoria and U.K. based Play.com.
Pinterest has already increased referral traffic to many retailers of items like women’s clothing and books. It is unclear what the next steps will be for the company beyond the start of a new funding round scheduled to begin on Friday, which is also the day Facebook launches its IPO.
Although no official statements have been released, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to foresee a future Pinterest where commerce is tightly integrated with content. Each image can be used as advertising, pinned images could trigger promotions and product suggestions and single clicks could add items to a shopping cart. If implemented correctly and unobtrusively, Pinterest’s potential to sell goods could vastly exceed the current leader in social advertising, Facebook.