Why Pinterest Will Rule The Web in 2012

Last year the digital pin-board site launched attracting millions of users to end 2011 as one of the Top 10 most visited sites online. While many marketers and digital natives looked at Google+ as the next-big thing for 2012, I’m taking a stand in saying that Pinterest will rule the web in 2012.

While I have never used Pinterest beyond browsing, I’m one of it’s biggest fans. Simply visit the site for a few minutes and you’ll quickly realize that I’m not the target market which is directly related to why I’m not an active user. That said, I haven’t gone 48 hours without hearing sisters, aunts, cousins, and female friends/colleagues chatting about what they’ve pinned on their Pinterest board.

Taking a page out of Gilt Groupes book, you will need an invite to gain access to the site. Pinterest users virtually “pin” products and items they find around the web to their own personal pin boards. The current user base have used Pinterest as a way to collect recipes, DIY links and share their own style inspirations with friends. There is no doubt that this site is a social beast, users can browse friends’ pins and boards, follow specific users and re-pin their favorite items.

Pinterest has cracked a question that men have asked for years: What do Women Want? Well based on the numbers it’s clear that they want Pinterest. A social networking site that allows them to share their interests in a dynamic/visually appealing way. The idea of bookmarking isn’t anything new. This website is simply an innovative spin on sites like Reddit and Digg. The key difference however is that (1) Women love the beautiful design (2) The opportunities to add pins with ease appeals to vanity and (3) their target market wants to share invites with their friends (Great Viral Loop).

More than that, Pinterest has found what many believe is a significant shift in not only the consumption curve but also in purchasing behavior. It’s a shift in consumers moving away from the idea of using search and instead looking towards a new process of discovery. Semil Shah describes it like this in his recent Tech Crunch article: The Rise of Pinterest and the Shift from Search to Discovery:

The shift that is happening is from search to discovery. Everyone talks about this shift, but what does it mean?

As we make a decision online to purchase something, we are trained to go to Google (or Amazon), type in the keyword, and sort through results to make a transaction. In return for that sorting, Google makes a lot of money, but in order for it to work, we individuals have to signal our intent: “Black Nike running shoes.”

But, how did I decide to even want these running shoes?

While Google makes money at the bottom of this decision funnel, the top of the funnel is where “discovery” happens. It’s much wider at the top of the funnel, and hard to pin down where the thoughts originate. A site like Pinterest could help bring some of that discovery online. Say that I’m in the market for new shoes, but instead of researching them myself, I elect to browse the boards of some friends on Pinterest who I already know are dedicated runners? I could find a pair of sneakers on a friend’s Pinterest board and have reasonable confidence that this pair would suit me, too. In this manner, I may elect to buy the shoes right after seeing my friend’s board on Pinterest and get to a transaction much quicker. If Pinterest can bypass intent-based search on just even a small fraction of online transactions, it will be a huge success.

I couldn’t agree more. The “shift” is coming and I feel as if Pinterest is leading the way specifically in the female market. While I don’t see Pinterest being the next Google Killer – I do see it gaining traction as this type of site will rise as another way for users to find inspiration around what they’re looking to purchase.

Take a look for a second at the traditional path to purchase online:

Pinterest skips awareness completely and drives users immediately to interest (no surprise there). The opportunity for Pinterest is directly related to making the discovery process for users simple and social by nature. They are constantly met with a simple user interface that is topped off with beautiful design where their interests are displayed throughout the entire page. They are able to share links, images and quotes similar to Twitter but placing more emphasis on the images rather than the text.

I asked a simple question on Twitter about Pinterest and the fans of this site came out in masses. The first clear trend that kept coming up was the use of Pinterest for inspiration and ideas. The second was the passion people had for this site – Some stated they had an addiction while others expressed they were in love. Here are some of the responses:

At this stage, the key to Pinterests ongoing success will be directly related to its ability to identify and develop a sustainable business model. I believe we will see Pinterest evolve into a new age affiliate marketing hub where businesses will pay Pinterest based on the facilitation of the product discovery and sale. Not only that, I feel we will begin to see “Pin This” buttons across a variety of sites like Amazon.com, Etsy and Fab.com as they will see an increase in relevant traffic from Pinterest in comparison to other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. In doing so, Pinterest may implement its own version of Open Graph to really take-off and become a leader in bookmarking.

Now, keep in mind these are all assumptions and predictions. I have my eye on Pinterest moving into 2012 and you should too. The model of this site will evolve and consumer behavior will do just the same.

Like I said before, us men have asked the question for years: What Do Women Want?

I think we’re slowly getting closer to what seems to be the answer.

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