Pinterest Creates Affiliate Opportunities for Competition

Becky Doles

Even after a cash infusion from Linkshare parent company Rakuten, Pinterest remains decidedly anti-affiliate. After stripping Amazon affiliate links, Pinterest expanded their block on certain types of tracking URLs to include removing Google Analytics UTM codes and declaring Linkshare URLs as spam. That hasn’t stopped other companies from building a business around making it easy for people to share photos of the things they love.

Fancying Products for Fun or Profit

Fancy, a site that’s been around since 2009, bills itself as a style curation site. Much like Pinterest, you can add things you love to the site, as well as “Fancy” things other people have added. One key difference with Fancy is they focus on providing a sales outlet for products, in addition to having the ability to curate. Fancy recently added referrals, meaning any time you share a product with friends, you have the potential to get paid when they buy. While that’s not quite like adding your own affiliate links to things you share, it’s a better compromise than banning affiliates altogether. It seems like there’s a solid potential for some smart affiliate marketer to drive enough commerce transactions to make Fancy a lucrative side business, if not a full-time gig.

Super Affiliate of Aspirational Shopping

I call most of what people do on Pinterest aspirational shopping, because people are sharing stuff they like as they kill time, without necessarily having any intent to buy the products. There have been some interesting studies around moving customers from pinning to purchase, but 20% of people buying at least one thing they pinned isn’t exactly an indication that Pinterest is a wishlist of future transactions. People buying 20% of what they pin would be far more interesting.

Pinterest briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a massive affiliate when they integrated Skimlinks a few months ago. They received some largely unfounded backlash as a result and quickly pulled the links, though they claimed it was just a test.

I just met the folks from Wantering, which is a GROWLab startup that allows you to create an account, “heart” (aka favorite) fashion items, and share them with friends. The Wantering presentation is very similar to Pinterest. At the moment they are using naked links to products, but I have to think the obvious business model is to add purchase links to the various product pages.

Wantering actually reminds me a great deal of StyleFeeder, which was ultimately acquired by People Magazine and integrated as StyleWatch. With StyleFeeder users created accounts to track fashion items and the site got paid anytime someone purchased an item. While Wantering doesn’t have the volume of traffic StyleFeeder did, a Skimlinks or VigLink integration would be a rapid path to monetization.

Claiming the Commerce of Curation

Who do you think will become the Pinterest of shared photo commerce? Or will Pinterest finally cave and reveal a revenue model that benefits both users and brands alike?

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she handled content strategy and marketing communications at several tech startups in the Bay Area. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned home to Charleston, SC, where you can find her strolling through Hampton Park with her pup and enjoying the simple things between adventures with friends and family.

6 responses to “Pinterest Creates Affiliate Opportunities for Competition”

  1. Brad Madiuk says:

    I really think it’s too bad of Pinterest to start out anti-affiliate out of the gate. They don’t need affiliates though so why should they tolerate them “spamming up” their system.

    • Posting an affiliate link doesn’t have to mean “spamming up” Pinterest. People value the time they spend on a site differently. Some people might find more value in Pinterest if they were compensated for products they share. Fancy provides a good alternative for those people. Other sites may emerge that are more affiliate-friendly as well.

      Pinterest may or may not need affiliates – the market will prove that out.

  2. what benefit is it to Pinterest to allow affiliates to take over their network? I can see why they tried their own hand using Skimlinks – I mean, they have people to pay and investors to make happy. Affiliates still can and do make money on Pinterest, they just have to be a bit smarter about it and use it to drive traffic to their sites where their offers live and not straight to their affiliate links.

    • I agree that the best approach for affiliates on Pinterest is posting links back to their own sites. That said, Twitter is a good example of a user generated content site that found a balance between allowing users to post anything they want (including affiliate links) and users policing community behavior.

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