While Facebook and Snapchat duke it out for the attention of younger audiences, Twitter shifts into video mode and LinkedIn continues to expand its professional offerings, you can't help but root for Pinterest and its efforts to blaze its own social path. Although maybe 'social' is not the word for it - over time, Pinterest has moved further and further from its social network roots and more towards eCommerce. Even Pinterest itself says that it's not a social network.
Pinterest is now, essentially, a discovery platform, a shopping mall of ideas. And while it may be de-emphasizing the social aspects, where Pinterest is winning out is in purchase intent. Pinterest has a smaller number of overall users than the bigger players, but those that do use the app are much more likely to buy something as a result.
And with their new visual search elements, Pinterest is looking to take that activity to the next level.
Back in February, Pinterest introduced their innovative new Lens tool, which enables users to use a camera tool within Pinterest to take a photo, then use that image as the basis for an on-platform search - like Google Images but with a refined focus on commerce.
Now, Pinterest has added to the functionality of Lens - you no longer need to focus on a single object, you can take a shot of an entire room and find related Pin matches.
As you can see, Lens is able to identify various objects from the image, singling out tables, lamps, chairs, and providing relevant matches based on each.
Given the broader focus, you'd expect the results would be less reliable, though as per their original announcement, Pinterest is using audience experiences as feedback to refine the process and improve results. So while they might not be 100% accurate now, they're getting better, and with Lens usage tripling in the last month, the pool of training data for their image recognition model is constantly evolving.
In addition to expanded Lens options, Pinterest is also adding QR codes into the mix.
As per Pinterest:
"Lens now speaks QR! Just point it at one of those squiggly-maze squares to instantly jump to whatever website or Pinterest board it's linked to-you don't even need to tap."
Interestingly though, Pinterest isn't creating its own QR code variation, as Snapchat and Facebook have done. Instead, Pinterest Lens will be able to scan any standard QR code which links to a web page when scanned.
"If you already use QR codes as part of your strategy, consider driving them to your Pinterest board, account or website to inspire your audience with ideas from your brand."
Are QR codes becoming a more relevant marketing option? It's hard to say, though in addition to both Snapchat and Facebook putting more emphasis on their QR code tools, China's most popular social app, WeChat, which has more than 768 million daily active users, recently released a video of their coming options, which included significant focus on QR codes, along with new AR features.
A still from WeChat's latest promotional video
WeChat is more than a chat app for Chinese users. Aside from those daily user figures, half of WeChat's users also spend more than 90 minutes per day in the app, doing everything from booking and paying for taxis, paying utility bills, doing their banking and buying products. Facebook has previously noted that WeChat is their model for Messenger, a messaging platform that can function as a constant companion and assistant.
Given WeChat's focus on QR codes, it makes sense that more western social networks are also leaning towards that option - such trends don't always translate, but WeChat's leading the way in terms of incorporating multiple functions within a single app.
Maybe they're onto something - and if they are, Pinterest is staying in touch, not by going all in, but just dipping a toe in the water and seeing what comes of it.
Pinterest has also announced that their new app shortcuts, which they recently added for Android, are now also coming to iOS.
The option enables users to more easily connect with the various Pinterest options - most notably making Lens easier to access and use. Along the same line, Pinterest also recently announced a partnership with Samsung to integrate Lens into their Bixby personal assistant tool, with a focus on making Lens a more habitual search option for related products.
In terms of marketing applications, while Lens ads are not available (though Pinterest specifically notes that they're not available 'yet'), Pinterest advises that brands should upload their product catalog to the platform to ensure their products appear in Lens search results, while they also suggest that brands should give Lens a try and see if their products come up.
"If Lens stumbles, tap and to help it learn."
A couple of relevant notes - while Lens is only available to US users right now, it's worth those that do have access taking a moment to check it out. And if your products are not showing up, maybe provide feedback - you can add manual tags to non-identified objects and provide the Pinterest dev team with feedback via the app.
As noted, Pinterest, as a platform, is evolving beyond its social roots and moving more towards eCommerce, and for certain sectors and consumer segments, it's already a critical platform. If you're not utilizing Pinterest in your marketing strategy, it's worth heading over and doing a search to see what comes up around your niche.