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Pinterest has a better chance building a big commerce business than Facebook and Twitter do

Alice Truong/Quartz
A new way to get you to spend money.
By Alice Truong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It took five years, but Pinterest is finally adding a buy button to its social network.

The move makes perfect sense. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, which focus respectively on sharing moments from the past and present, Pinterest has always been about the future. People use the social network to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and figure out where to travel—giving Pinterest valuable insights into what its 70 million monthly users want.

“Pinterest isn’t about getting your chores done,” CEO Ben Silbermann said today at an event held at its San Francisco headquarters. “Pinterest is about discovering products you love and getting inspired in the process.”

But while there’s been plenty of shopping porn, there hasn’t been an easy way to buy items that are pinned. “Most of the time, I give up on buying [a product] or I email it to myself so I can buy it at home,” Silbermann said in describing the disconnect.

Pinterest’s early efforts centered largely on helping users find new content; in recent years the company started slowly exploring ways to make its 50 billion pins more actionable. In 2013, it launched “rich pins,” which pulled additional information, such as product pricing and availability, into pins. In May, the company made a suite of APIs available for developers to build integrations into their apps.

Adding a buy button was the next logical step. The button, which will roll out on mobile later this month and show up on 2 million product pins at launch, will let users shop without leaving Pinterest. Merchants will fulfill and ship the orders, and payments companies Stripe, Braintree, and Apple Pay will process the transactions. Pinterest teamed up with ecommerce platforms Shopify and Demandware to enable buyable pins for their merchants. Michael Yamartino, head of commerce for Pinterest, tells Quartz the company does not plan to charge merchants any fees or take a cut of sales. Instead, the hope is that buyable pins will encourage partner merchants to spend more on advertising, which is the only way Pinterest makes money currently.

Shopify, which went public last month, says Pinterest is currently the second biggest driver of website traffic (behind Facebook) to its 160,000-plus merchants. According to a report it released in 2014, Pinterest users on average spend $58.95, more than Facebook and Twitter users (but less than users of fashion site Polyvore and Instagram). But where Pinterest really shines is users’ intention to purchase: A recent survey found 93% of users go on Pinterest to plan a purchase and 96% use it to research products. The fact that users go on Pinterest with high intention to shop will give it a big leg up over Facebook and Twitter in building a commerce business.

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