On July 28, Pinterest announced it will sell "Buyable Pins" in the near future. According to industry website Business2Community, the popular social media platform plans to add the new feature to increase market share in a rapidly expanding vertical. Thanks in part to to the continual maturation of digital technology, online retail has become one of the most popular ways for consumers to shop for products and services today.   

As a result, companies across all industries are trying their hand at e-commerce, and with good reason. According to Demandware's Shopping Index, digital commerce grew more than 23 percent in the first quarter this year. Similarly, the rapid increase in phone traffic worldwide serves as a clear indication that Buyable Pins offer a large opportunity for retailers to drive customer conversion rates. According to Demandware data, Web traffic from phones is growing quickly, rising 38 percent during Q1 2015 year over year. That figure represents a 35 percent share of all user traffic time online.

Can social help e-commerce improve?
The fusion between e-commerce and social media seems to be on its way, especially given the aforementioned news. What's more, Facebook announced earlier this year it would be rolling out a peer-to-peer payment infrastructure. Before that, Snapchat rolled out a similar feature on its mobile application where users could send each other money on the platform. 

While it seems like Pinterest's announcement to roll out Buyable Pins comes at a particularly good time, especially given recent mobile growth, critics feel that social and online retail have a larger bridge to gap than most people believe. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said online retailers using social as a key driver for sales is unlikely.

"While pockets of opportunity for Facebook do exist, the likelihood that Facebook will ever be 'the next Google,' thereby becoming a key sales-driving tool for retailers and creating a reliable revenue stream for Facebook, is unfortunately far-fetched," Mulpuru said in an industry report. 

Mulpuru cited a handful of reasons that could contribute to Facebook and other social platforms not taking off as a driver of revenue for online retailers:

  • Facebook is not a search engine
  • Privacy issues remain an issue on certain social platforms
  • Social payments don't necessarily lead to conversions

What does this mean for Pinterest?
Connecting social and e-commerce is something businesses are still trying to figure out. Since consumers' needs are fluid, companies have to figure out ways to best serve them. According to Business2Community, Pinterest is working to do just that. In fact, Buyable Pins will transform virtual collections of ideas and wishes into tangible customer wish lists. Users will no longer have to search the Web for previously pinned items. Rather, they can seamlessly go from pinning to purchasing in a matter of seconds.

While some industry experts feel that traditional social platforms are their own worst enemy when it comes to creating a seamless social-to-online-payment experience, Pinterest may be well positioned to make this a reality. 

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