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Pinterest Rebuild Aims for Global Domination

I once described Pinterest as a visual pinboard.

Four years later, Pinterest has outgrown that cute and crafty term. They’ve graduated from being a recipe repository for soccer moms to an analytics-rich platform on which brands can build communities. And their success shows in their valuation — between May 2012 and June 2015, Pinterest’s estimated worth grew from a tidy $1.5 billion to a hefty $11 billion. (source: Wikipedia)

It looks like the popular inspiration app is on top right now, but they’ve got their eyes on even broader horizons: Pinterest is positioning themselves to become the world’s premier visual search engine. And it all starts with their latest update.

pinterest-ios-speed

Fast & flat

Mobile Pinterest addicts rejoice: the app is now up to 3x faster for more pinning power. In addition to rebuilding the interior framework, Pinterest gave themselves an exterior design makeover, creating a clean white and gray look accompanied by bold new type and flat icons. They also made sure the app was readable in 31 languages, from Roman to Kanji to Cyrillic.

The long-term benefit of the rebuild is that engineers will have an easier, quicker time developing and implementing new features in the future.

For now these updates only affect iPhone and iPad users, but Pinterest plans to roll over the changes on Android and web platforms over the next several weeks.

Did you know? In the months leading up to the 2012 US presidential election, both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama announced public Pinterest accounts. (source: Wikipedia)

Future-forward

In 2015 Pinterest generated around $100 million in ad-based revenue — not too shabby. But as The Wall Street Journal reported, last year in an offering document Pinterest projected $3 billion in advertising revenue for 2018.

Today, Pinterest has over 100 million active monthly users around the world, but ComScore estimates that a whopping 87 million of those users are based in the US. (source: Wired) Moreover, 83% of international users and 75% of US users are women. To have any hope of earning $3 billion in revenue inside just a couple short years, Pinterest is going to have to exponentially expand its worldwide user base — and fast.

For Pinterest the big question remains: how to take an app that was built around the interests of middle America and make it relevant to cultures across the globe?

Pinterest's new icons, designed by Susan Kare, are meant to be subtle to allow the content to stand out.
Pinterest’s new icons, designed by Susan Kare, are meant to be subtle to allow the content to stand out.

To their credit, Pinterest is working on answering that question. Over the last few years Pinterest has opened offices in London, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, and São Paulo, and hit the ground running with local research and projects like Jumpstart, a 90-day experiment which sent a team from San Francisco to Japan to figure out how to make Pinterest work better in that market. While progress has been made, there’s still a lot of work left to figure out how to make Pinterest a uniquely relevant experience to each user no matter what country code they’re logging in from.

And this is where the new overhaul becomes key to future growth. Making Pinterest faster and lighter will help people access it on older devices in countries where the data network isn’t quite as robust as it is here. So, too, will beefing up its basic language support, and ensuring the new design works equally well across all borders. This is a big reason why they went minimal with their refresh, by the way — all the better to let the content stand out.

While the content iteself remains largely American-centric, Pinterest hopes that making the app easier to use will encourage more global users, who will in turn pin more content that appeals to their own neighbors, which will help diversify the app and draw even more users, and so on — a sort of long-tail domino effect of escalating success.

“We’re trying to build a catalog of ideas for the entire world. It’s only as good as the diversity of ideas inside it.”
– Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, in an interview with Wired

Pinterest #goals: be the go-to place for ideas

Ultimately, Pinterest wants to be the place everyone goes to discover new ideas, whether that’s what’s for dinner tonight, how to decorate a living room, or which on-trend wardrobe staples to stock up on next season.

American advertisers can already see the potential for capturing and converting on the latent intent that pinning holds, but in order to be able to reach $3 billion in revenue by 2018, Pinterest absolutely must convince international advertisers, too. And in order to do that, they must first successfully appeal to a much wider and more deeply diverse group of people.

The pressure is on for Pinterest to deliver on its promises. Do you think they have a shot?

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