This is part of a two-part exploration of the banking implications of Pinterest, the fastest-growing independent website in history. See Mary’s take here.
Only one site has smoked them all. Facebook? Smoked. Google? Beaten. Yahoo? Faggetaboutit!
Pinterest beats them all. Last May, Pinterest had 418,000 unique visitors. Last month, 11.7 million. That ranks Pinterest as the fastest growth ever for a standalone website. One word: WOW.
I’ve spent the last week or so playing on Pinterest, and I can report that it does have implications for banking — but the greatest implications for Pinterest will come if the site metamorphosizes somewhat.
Let’s start with the basics. Pinterest is a picture posting service. Find a picture online or have a picture on your computer and you can “pin it” up on Pinterest. The “pin” is viewable by every Pinterest member, but particularly by your followers. People who see the picture can “re-pin” the picture on their “board,” which are usually classified with words or phrases like “Architecture” or “Great Graphic Design.” Viewers can also comment on the pins, as well as push the pins up to Twitter or Facebook. Try the Pinterest page of Evan Sharp, one of the founders of Pinterest, to see how a fully evolved Pinterest account looks like.
Usually, the pictures will link back to a URL. In some cases, those pictures of, say, women’s black shoes, link back to a site selling the very shoes. This is why the demographic on Pinterest is highly skewed to women: there’s a lot of selling and fashion on the site. (Not that men don’t like that stuff, but you get what I mean.)
Obviously, people don’t have to post pictures of black pumps with six-inch-high heels. Last week, I named the 10 coolest brands in banking, and I “pin-ed” my associated blog up to Pinterest. As you can see here, Pinterest pinned the first image from my blog. However, when I tried to pin, say, the Bank Innovationwebsite, I got an error message explaining that Pinterest could not identify the main photo to pin. It was a bit annoying.
That was the only annoying part of the site. Pinterest is more than elegantly designed. One of its slickest features is also one of its most subtle. There is no link to the homepage from any pin. If you think about it — and you will after you use the site for a while — Pinterest users are constantly checking out pins. And yet, no link to the homepage — or at least no obvious one. It turns out you can click anywhereoutside the pin and you are returned to the homepage. It’s a really nice navigational innovation.
Now what does this all mean to banking? Currently, most of the relevance to banking right now remains in its pins of banking design and graphics. Here‘s a pin board I made of banking designs on Pinterest and of banking architecture. I also made a more generic pin board of banking-related flotsam and jetsam on the site here, so you can see the banking stuff currently on the site. But there is not much there — yet.
What I realized about Pinterest is that it is a wonderful showcase for the visual, and banking certainly offers visual opportunities. More than that, however, I have little doubt that the non-visual — namely offers and deals and discounts and whatever — will be available on the site. So Pinterest will certainly morph into a major advertising channel. If women are buying wedding shoes through Pinterest, I don’t see why people will not eventually buy banking services for those weddings through Pinterest. (Just remember to attach a delightful image with the offer.)
3. The Network Effect
Like the other major social networking venues, Pinterest plays on the social graph. So it is not just ads that banks might run on Pinterest or in pins, but it is Pinterest’s social graph that banks will have to contend with, just as banks contend with the messy brand sandbox of Twitter. Like Twitter, Pinterest will be both curse and blessing. The rush to start Pinterest pages or boards has only just begun, with Wells Fargo taking the lead.
How are Pinterest users buying things right now? Well, not through Pinterest, that’s for sure. I expect that Pinterest will eventually take a more active role in the transactions the site is facilitating. To date, it is wholly unclear how Pinterest plans to monetize its 11.7 million unique visitors per month. Payments must be an option it is considering. And that has a bearing on banking, just as Facebook Credits have banking implications.
These three reasons could be profound for banking — the only problem is scant ventures use Pinterest today for advertising products well beyond fashion or art; only a handful of banks are playing on Pinterest today; and there is no e-commerce mechanism to speak of on Pinterest right now. (It appears as though Pinterest is starting to extract revenue from e-commerce referrals, but there is no confirmation of this from Pinterest to date.) When it comes to banking, Pinterest today is about potential. And web traffic. Lots and lots of web traffic.