Over the past few years, Pinterest has made diversity a bigger focus, with advanced technology that aims to provide more inclusive options, and an internal shift designed to prioritize a breadth of perspectives.
Which, given the app's rising relevance as an eCommerce platform, is an important element, with the capacity to both showcase diverse products and creators, and maximize inclusion among those looking for relevant products.
To get more insight on this, we recently spoke with Jeremy King, the SVP of Technology at Pinterest. Jeremy provided an overview of the platform's efforts to maximize inclusivity, and why it's such a critical focus for the platform, while also outlining its future plans on this element.
As Jeremy explains:
"We believe it's our responsibility as a visual platform to think about what it means to really see yourself in the product, regardless of who you are."
Read on for more insights from Jeremy as to how Pinterest is addressing this critical element.
Q: What key usage impacts have you seen as a result of Pinterest's inclusivity efforts?
JK: One of the biggest accomplishments in our diversification work over the past few years has been in diversifying the data, and training the models with diverse content. Through this work, we can serve more diverse recommendations, which has led to increases in engagement and searches. We’ve also integrated skin tone ranges with our Try On product, which has brought an augmented reality layer to our platform.
With AR Try On with skin tone ranges, we found Pinners are 5x more likely to show purchase intent on Pins with AR than standard Pins. And AR is a better product because it allows for diverse searching and filtering. We’re continuing to bring inclusivity to these key products.
Building for diversity and representation isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the best thing for our global business.
Pinterest has always been a platform for positivity, inspiration and relevance. To help people feel inspired, we need to deliberately engineer the technology in a way that advances that positivity (our most recent example is our ban of weight loss ads, a first for the industry.)
Q: How many people use Pinterest's skin tone search feature?
JK: The skin tone ranges feature has been rolling out globally, and is currently available in 14 countries. As we launch internationally, we’re focused on ensuring local and relevant content appears for Pinners as they search and refine beauty results that work best for them. Pinterest is one of the biggest beauty platforms in the world with more than 80 million people searching for beauty ideas each month. Over the past year, we've seen a 5x increase in Pinners using the skin tone range feature to discover beauty ideas on Pinterest.
Q: What elements of Pinterest's systems have you found to be influenced by existing bias?
JK: We’ve been working on inclusive products since launching the first version of skin tone ranges in 2018, and we’ve continued to invest in integrating inclusive tech in many areas, including augmented reality.
We built skin tone ranges because we realized we had biases in our search results, which weren’t properly personalizing for each person. We heard from Pinners that it was difficult to find search results specific to their skin tone range, and they were adding text to queries to try to find the most relevant ideas. As a visual platform, our solution was to make it easy to filter searches with a palette that represents a range of skin tones. As we continued to invest in improving the technology and models and diversifying the data, we began to mitigate the bias in results.
Q: What else is Pinterest working on to remove bias from the shopping experience?
JK: When we approach innovation, we look at the ways people are already using Pinterest and work to make it the most inclusive, inspirational and actionable experience we can. That includes making it easy to find ideas that work best for you, see recommendations of how it could work or fit, and make it easy to purchase. As one of the most popular categories on Pinterest, we first tackled beauty with skin tone ranges and later AR Try on, and we’ll continue to expand upon these categories.
We continue to be focused on creators and shopping as key product areas. We’re working to make it easier to discover products and ideas from creators from underrepresented groups. We’re also leveraging the commercial intent people come to Pinterest with to introduce shopping features that feel natural to the platform. And with everything, doing it in an inclusive and authentic way. For example, with AR Try on, you won’t find any skin smoothing or altering features in our AR, which makes it much more actual reality than augmented.
Q: What tips do you have for brands looking to establish a more inclusive approach?
JK: For platforms and those handling data, it’s vital to diversify that data. You might be in a position where your dataset is biased because of your customer base, and you might need to source new data you might not have. This can get expensive, and there might be a moment where you’re balancing cost vs. benefit, but diversifying the data and mitigating bias in the AI now will pay off in the long run. This goes for anyone in the AI space.
All companies need to take steps to increase diversity among AI researchers and engineers, to ensure future technology benefits everyone. It would be a massive disservice to create a state of future technology that only works for a specific population of people. Tech companies are far from solving bias in AI, but we can work every day to bring more compassion and inclusivity to tech.
It’s also important to diversify content, and ensure representation across creators who represent your brand. Work with - and compensate - research and focus groups made up of communities of color so the products, design and services you’re delivering are representative. And, make it easy to find and support businesses owned by people from underrepresented groups.
We always say, you can’t be inspired if you don’t feel represented. Brands must ensure that their community - and the community they want in the future - can see themselves in their offerings.
Jeremy King is the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Pinterest, and was formerly the Chief Tecnology Officer at Walmart for eight years. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter.