By the Blouin News Technology staff

Pinterest’s API great for brands, not great for strategy

by in Media Tech.

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Pinterest announced its first application programming interface on Thursday. The new feature will allow businesses to showcase popular pins on their website. A handful of large companies such as online shoe-retailer Zappos and Target have already used the feature and are showcasing favorite pins, or pins that relate to a users’ search on their site.

The installation of an API is the second step Pinterest took to emphasize the value it brings to businesses. And just like Pinterest’s first step, the introduction of Pinterest Analytics in March, it took longer than it should have. Pinterest launched Pinterest Analytics — a service that gives businesses a tally of repins and views of their product pins — after several Pinterest analytics companies such as Piqora (formerly Pinfluencer) and Curalate had cropped up a year before, in 2012. Furthermore, Curalate and Piqora have even more detailed account information such as the rate at which pinners and viewers end up purchasing a pinned product.

Judging by the quick adoption and eagerness of brands to use it less than a day after its launch, the API or any other system that would let brands use pins to lure non-Pinterest-using online shoppers to  make a purchase. But just like the introduction of Pinterest Analytics, it is unclear what Pinterest has to gain from offering the service. The installation of pins of other websites will bring attention to the online pinboard (Some would argue the digital media darling needs no more attention) but no revenue. The company’s other service to businesses, Pinterest Analytics, is a free as well, even though it offers valuable information to brands about the success or failure of a social media marketing strategy.

With 2.5 billion monthly page views and 25 million users, Pinterest has had a huge impact on e-commerce. In the second quarter of 2013, it accounted for 23% of all social-mediated e-commerce sales (online sales influenced by social media), based on data from Add-Shoppers. That is a large number, since 74% of consumers said that social media has an influence on what they purchase. The effect can be even higher when accounting for pin views that lead to indirect purchases: Piqora has reported an average of 250 million impressions for each brand it manages.

An absence of a revenue strategy in Pinterest is confusing to say the least, especially since it is in such a ripe place for a profit. (It is a social, user-generated catalogue.) Either the founders have a grand scheme that is soon to be unveiled, or like many other social-media companies, are still struggling to figure out monetization.