Back in February, ahead of Pinterest's IPO, we noted that one of the platform's key challenges would likely come from Google, which has been slowly evolving its own eCommerce tools.
As we noted back then:
"Google is also looking to advance its options along the same lines [as Pinterest], and once Pinterest goes public, and comes under increasing market scrutiny, Google may take the Facebook route and use that as a cue to heap the pressure on by launching its own, similar tools."
It seems that Google is indeed keeping tabs on Pinterest's growth, as this week, it's launched a new tool which replicates Pinterest's 'Shop the Look' Pins, offering relevant product matches based on an image captured through Google Lens, or via screenshot sample.
As explained by Google:
"If you see a leopard print skirt you like on social media, take a screenshot and use Lens in Google Photos to see how other people have styled similar looks. See a winter coat that catches your eye in a store, but need some inspiration on how to rock it? Just open Lens and point your camera."
As you can see in the above example, now, in addition to getting similar product matches via Google listings, you'll also see a new 'Style Inspiration' selection, which highlights how other people have added that item into their outfit. The idea is almost exactly like Pinterest's advanced Shop the Look Pins, which it launched earlier this year, while it also adds in an element of Pinterest's coming 'Complete the Look' Pins, which look to provide the same functionality, recommending related products to match with any item you choose.
Pinterest is still developing its Complete the Look recommendations, so in some ways, Google's looking to get ahead of the platform with the tools that it has been leading the way on. That's a major risk for Pinterest - bigger companies like Google and Amazon have significantly more development resources and capacity, and if Pinterest does eventually grow to a level where it's taking significant traffic from them, they can look to beat Pinterest at its own game - which, in essence, is what Google's doing here.
But it's not just through Google Lens that it's looking to hit Pinterest. In addition to style recommendations, Google has also announced a redesign of Google Shopping, via Google search, which will boost Google's eCommerce potential.
As per Google:
"With information from thousands of stores in one place, you can discover and compare millions of products, and find the best prices and places to buy online or from a store nearby. The new homepage is personalized so you see useful product suggestions, as well as sections that help you reorder common items or continue your shopping research. And when you’re ready to buy, you can choose to purchase online, at a nearby store, or directly from retailers on Google."
The focus here may actually be Amazon, but again, it taps into the key element that Pinterest is working on, and provides similar tools, with products recommendations, comparisons and personalized listings.
Google's also added a handy new price tracking feature, which will enable shoppers to keep tabs on items they like, in order to pick them up when the price drops. When selected, Google will send you a push notification when the price changes.
Google's also added an option to filter for nearby products, so that you can find local stores which stock the item you want, if you want to go and check it out in real life before buying, while Google's also adding the capacity to buy direct from 'thousands of stores' via Google Shopping matches.
"Checkout is quick, easy and safe because you can use the information saved in your Google Account. And every order is backed by a Google guarantee, which means you can rely on Google’s customer support and we’ll have your back for easy returns and refunds. Buying on Google also means you can shop from any store with confidence and discover new ones you’d never considered before."
As noted, Google has been improving its eCommerce tools over time, but very clearly, it's taking note of Pinterest and how it's building out its own on-platform discovery and purchasing tools.
Last year, as another example, Google launched an updated image search layout, which uses a Pinterest-like format, including additional, contextual search tabs to further refine your search.
Pinterest, at 300 million active users, may not seem like a major concern to Google - but it's the platform's growth trajectory that's likely piqued The Big G's interest.
Google already offers similar tools, and stands to benefit from the same processes which Pinterest is using to build its business. So why wouldn't it look to take up the challenge - Pinterest is, essentially, looking to maximize its benefits through search and discovery, which are Google's key areas of expertise.
It may not seem like an obvious clash, but Pinterest's growth does come at Google's expense. And if Google can improve its tools while also responding to that challenge, it seems like a no-brainer.
Really, in the end, consumers will win out here, with more ways to search for products, and get alerts on price drops and the like. Whether these changes impact Pinterest's growth, we won't know for some time, but it does offer more options for online shoppers.