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The Pinterization of E-Commerce

  |  October 11, 2012   |  Comments

More online merchants are incorporating hunting/gathering of products on their sites.

Our screen lives may be overtaking our time spent in meatspace, but we approach digital media with brains honed for hunting and gathering in the savannahs. Maybe that's why Pinterest is so satisfying - and why more online merchants are incorporating hunting/gathering of products on their sites.

Facebook is testing Collections, basically a new ad unit that lets brands merchandise items by grouping them according to themes and adding copy. Collections appear in the brand's timeline, such as Pottery Barn's Thanksgiving Essentials collection, posted on Wednesday.

Fans can like an item and comment on it within their own timelines. But if they want to buy, copy includes links to featured items on the Pottery Barn website.

8thBridge is another company that aims to help online retailers latch onto pin-style sharing. On Wednesday, it released Graphite 2, a social commerce technology that includes Curation & Discovery, a feature that lets consumers organize the things they like on the brand's website by creating boards or collections of items that go together. These collections are shared on the user's Facebook timeline, and into the ticker and newsfeeds of their friends.

DebShops.com, an 8thBridge customer, beta tested this and other new features. In the first two weeks of the beta test, more than 2,000 items were curated, according to Jon Kubo, chief product officer for 8thBridge.

Kubo said that Facebook Collections is complementary to his company's offering. While Facebook allows brands to see collections of a few top sellers, retailers will get more sales lift with what he called long-tail curation - 20 or 30 collections around every product.

"Curation needs a lot of people during the curating," he said. While the likelihood that anyone's Facebook friends will want to buy something from a collection, browsing through curated collections on a retailer's website is a good way to discover products - no matter who has done the collecting, Kubo said. "Where true discovery and shopping will occur is on the website."

facebook-gifts Recently, Facebook also launched Gifts, a selection of under $25 items that people can buy on Facebook and ship to friends.

Facebook Gifts could simply be a ploy to show investors that Facebook can come up with new revenue streams, said Social Media Consultant Paul Chaney. In any case, it doesn't jibe with successful social shopping strategies.

"Anything you do inside a social network, as it relates to commercial activity, has to focus on social utility, either solving people's problems socially or solving social problems, for example, the need to stand out or fit in," Chaney said. But the generic and impersonal gifts made available through the service - Starbucks cards, cupcakes, socks, and the like - are unlikely to do either.

Kubo also had doubts about Facebook Gifts. While $25 or less is a price point at which people are more likely to put aside privacy and security concerns to buy from a new online retailer, he said it's too cheap for real friends, while people may be leery of status updates touting their gifting behavior.

This is far from the first time that Facebook has taken a play from another company's social media playbook. It launched Facebook Deals in March 2011, then ditched Deals in August. It folded Places, its Foursquare wannabe, a month later.

Said Chaney, "Facebook Collections is a shot across the bow of what Pinterest is doing. Facebook is in an enviable position in that it can try and fail and still keep going. It's tried deals and email messaging, which hasn't taken off. I think a lot of this is experimentation and if it doesn't work, on to next thing."


Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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