#NRF2020: Pinterest builds verified merchant programme

At NRF: Retail’s Big Show in New York City, Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest, assured the audience that Pinterest will keep integrity and its company mission – to be a platform where people go to get inspiration – at the heart of its merchant programme.

“The best companies start with their mission and build everything around that,” said Silbermann, explaining that sometimes it is the company’s responsibility to stay true to its mission, even if its users/customers express interest in a different direction. He explained: “We knew that [Pinterest], in theory, is a platform that can be used for anything, but we wanted it to be used for inspiration.” It becomes complicated, continued Silbermann, when users expect something more. “We saw that people started searching Pinterest for medical stuff. We made the decision not to serve that content because we aren’t experts. You have to take responsibility as a tech firm for the information you serve,” he said.

“People use Pinterest for emotional reasons too. We know this through looking at search terms [and seeing] people searching ‘I’m depressed’ or ‘I’m anxious’,” explained Silbermann. “So we decided to make it easy for people to access self-help services, by putting up numbers and URLs.” Pinterest then engaged experts to develop compassionate search, an initiative which gives access to medical professional-designed research and papers.

Pinterest has invested heavily in personalisation and machine learning, which Silbermann believes will improve the user and shopper experience. “We’re building a verified merchant programme so that we can show products from merchants that our users can trust.” The verified merchant programme will look at return and tracking policies, trust and “once a year, we’ll tell users who is verified".

We don’t want trust in the platform to be undermined, so we ban any merchants that violate termsBen Silbermann, CEO, Pinterest

“We don’t want trust in the platform to be undermined, so we ban any merchants that violate terms.” That doesn’t mean that Pinterest exclusively lists verified merchants, but they only “proactively push” verified merchants. “Over time, that verified mark will become trusted.”

The next big frontier for shopping

Silbermann shared his opinion that “the next big frontier for shopping” is users finding ‘a look’ online, but expect the gap from discovery to purchase to be bridged for them.

“It’s important to reach people at the very beginning of their purchasing journey,” he said, arguing that spending money on remarketing is becoming increasingly fruitless. “You’ve already generated the demand, so it’s less [effective]. It’s more about getting to people before they have made that demand decision,” he explained.

“CMOs are seeing diminishing return on truly mass reach. Increasingly, they want to market to a specific segment at a specific time. Of course, it’s hard to grow the number of people that have heard about you in that way, so it can’t be your only strategy.”

Since Pinterest went public last year, Silbermann was keen to emphasise that its mission remains the same. “There’s a brand new group of stakeholders but inside the company we need to make sure people are focussed on our users and customers.”

Silbermann claimed that the most exciting thing about the future of retail is technology that allows you to visualise what a product will look like if you purchase it and generally support purchasing decisions. “I fell in love with the internet and Pinterest has an opportunity to allow the internet to do what it does best: connect people positively and enable people positively,” he concluded.

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