By Tracey Lien Los Angeles Times WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) New image detection and camera search features will soon allow pinterest users to find and buy products. So if you see a picture of a beautiful bedroom on pinterest and you pin it to your board, the company's algorithm might link you to a page selling a certain type of pillow, curtain or bedding.
Pinterest will soon turn smartphone cameras into a tool that helps users discover and buy products, the company announced Tuesday when it revealed strategies intended to transform its digital scrapbook service into a shopping hub.
The San Francisco company, which lets people save images and links from around the web, hopes its visual search tools will make it more attractive to shoppers than other platforms that require users to search with words.
When the camera search feature rolls out in the coming months, a user could, for example, snap a photo of a couch she likes at a furniture store and turn to Pinterest to find that sofa and other visually similar products.
Launching with the camera search is an automatic object detection tool intended to help users find products that appear in photos they find on Pinterest. If, for instance, a user sees a picture of a swank kitchen on Pinterest and pins it to his board, the company's algorithm might link him to a page selling a particular saucepan or sous vide machine that appears in the photo.
"We hear people say all I time, 'I found this on Pinterest but I don't know where to buy it,'" said Michael Yamartino, Pinterest's head of commerce, "so image detection and camera visual search will help with that."
The announcement comes a year after Pinterest launched buyable pins, a feature that let users buy certain products they find on Pinterest directly through the mobile app. On Tuesday, Pinterest announced it will add to its service a virtual shopping cart and expand buyable pins to desktop.
"When we launched buyable pins last year, we launched with a quick and easy buying experience," Yamartino said.
The new features, Yamartino said, more closely reflect the actual experience of shopping by allowing users to find things they like and mull them over in a virtual shopping cart before deciding to pull the trigger.
While Pinterest was slow to get its buyable pins feature off the ground, marketers believe its new features could be a game-changer, so long as the company understands it needs to "market the hell out of them."
"Pinterest has a focus on product planning, discovery, and purchase, and there's no one else, not Google, Facebook, or Snapchat, that has as much focus on it right now," said Bob Gilbreath, chief executive of marketing firm Ahalogy, which specializes in marketing on Pinterest.
"Facebook and Snapchat are in a battle over video. YouTube is for large marketers and they're all fighting over TV dollars. Pinterest is quietly becoming the evolution of search," he said.
The San Francisco company, which is valued at $11 billion, has more than 10 million products for sale through its platform, up from 2 million when buyable pins launched.
According to Pinterest, merchants that advertise products on its platform achieve five times more in-store sales.