Digital Conference

How Pinterest Knows Who's Down to Shop and Who Isn't

Ahead of Ad Age's Digital Conference, Pinterest's Head of Commerce Michael Yamartino Talks About Buy It Buttons

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Michael Yamartino
Michael Yamartino Credit: Pinterest

As head of commerce at Pinterest, Michael Yamartino not only leads its commerce initiative but is also tasked with developing products to please the brand's fanbase of 100 million global users.

In a preview of his appearance in April at the 10th annual Ad Age Digital Conference in New York, he talks about enriching the user experience, overcoming challenges and how he can tell if someone wants to shop or is just collecting images. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Ad Age: Pinterest has launched a host of new products -- notably the Buy It buttons last year -- and has more recently expanded its recipe and movie buttons. Which products have been the most innovative for your users?

Michael Yamartino: All of those products are really aligned with the idea that Pinterest is this boundless catalog of ideas. We want all the pins in that catalog to be as rich and useful as possible.

The product I work on, buyable pins, is the best example of how we can make the pin experience really rich and create a much better experience for the user when they want to take action on it. We want Pinterest to help people find amazing things and bring them to life. In the case of buyable pins, it was the number one request since the start of the company.

Ad Age: You debuted the Buy It button in June 2015. What kind of challenges did you encounter in the product's first year?

Mr. Yamartino: We're always working on making our shopping and discovery experiences better. We want to make buyable pins available when someone wants to shop, and stay out of the way when someone is not in shopping mode.

When they want to shop, we want to make sure they have an awesome user experience, and when they don't, we're helping them with a recipe to cook something or to take their kids on a trip.

Some of the challenges in building a discovery experience are things like being able to look into images and identify the cool images that someone might want to buy. We have technology called visual search that lets us look into images and pull up actual objects. We're using that to power some shopping experiences.

We have well over 10,000 merchants and over 60 million buyable pins, so you want to be able to make good recommendations.

Ad Age: How can you tell if someone's in "shopping mode"?

Mr. Yamartino: Things like what they're searching for. If you type in a search query for ankle boots, we know you're probably interested in buying some.

Search queries are a good signal of what people are looking to do, as are the type of pins they're pinning on the board. People will start a living room renovation board to put the things from their dream home in, and that tells us that that person is looking to shop.

Ad Age: What does the future hold? What other services could Pinterest provide for users?

Mr. Yamartino: We want Pinterest to be useful in everyone's everyday life. There are things like recipes or travel planning or shopping that people do frequently and we want to build great discovery experiences to help explore the catalog of ideas. When they find something, we want to make it as easy as possible to take action. That's when users get excited and get the most value.

We did make some improvements to rich pins -- the ones that have the ingredients for recipes or business information for places. The overall product direction of the company is making those great discovery experiences actionable.

We also have 100 million users around the world and we're focused on growing our international audience.

Ad Age: As one of many tech companies that counts the majority of its employees as white or Asian males, Pinterest recently hired a diversity director. Why is cultivating a more diverse workforce important?

Mr. Yamartino: It's important for our employees and for the industry, but it also makes great business sense. We believe, and evidence shows, that having diverse teams helps us make better products and helps us with recruiting. We've made efforts over the years to make sure we're leading in that and building a diverse team here and that was the reason we went looking for a head of diversity.

Editor's note: Hear more from Michael Yamartino in person during the Ad Age Digital Conference, April 5-6 in New York City. Details here.

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