It truly does take a village. Or, to clarify: in the meat-market of an industry that the social media space has become, social integrations really nailing it with
tools experiences that prove to be meaningful for users, are increasingly few and far between. The Put A Bird On It! buttons and widgets (e.g. this page, bottom left- yep) are tired. Pinpointing by Zappos, however (yes, rough and imperfect), rules.
The Zappos Labs team at Amazon made this wonderful Pinterest tie-in, Pinpointing. As an intrapreneurially group, Zappos Labs appears to have created Pinpointing on their own: no months of partnership or joint venture meetings where
integration experience details are hashed to death in Power Point decks, then further obfuscated as numbers on spreadsheets, and finally dumped onto the product and development teams as scattered functional requirements tied to numbers. Forbes is predicting low returns on Pinpointing, so I’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll succeed wildly. The concept is user-centric, from the perspective of customers naturally seeking ‘that kick’ to convert find something they love, and may potentially buy. If no purchase is made immediately, no problem: a solid brand impression of delight often yields future transactions, not to mention word-of-mouth spreadin’ the love—so from my common-sense vantage, it’s a slam-dunk (erm, will be once algorithmically polished a good deal).
To really create
integrations experiences that yield vibrant activity (translation: leave it be and users will feed & grow it), memorable brand impressions (translation: peeps are gonna chat it up to all the folks at parties), completed sales transactions (translation: hooked customers, dollars in your coffers, new users in your CRM database), and the seemingly elusive je ne sais quoi that first made the social web exciting; a more holistic dip into the full ecosystem of platforms and brands has to be endeavored by technologists and creative teams.
The creative village: all for one and one for all. Company/platform, agency/brand agnostic. Just nimble minds and the commitment to divine the best, most symbiotic experiences possible. Experiences that prioritize meaning and joy for users, ahead of QoQ figures and ambiguous marketing measures. Faith and a staid belief in the promise that believing in users and their happiness, will (and has proven to) have its rewards.
Pinpointing is a brilliant scheme to monetize Pinterest, and refreshingly one that doesn’t even come close to Throw A Bird On It! strategies of whoring the user’s experience to advertising, or numbingly over-present Share This! button groupings. It’s the kind of use that only a product team from a different company could justify spending the time and resources to refine into a launched product, to prove the concept. With Zappos (or more widely, Amazon) Pinterest is a perfect fit with their dual goal of customer inspiration and retail sales—further developing the online shopping space as a wholly unique and appealing experience, well removed from the days of begging customers to give online shopping a try.
Especially for Amazon, who—between their member reviews, years-tuned recommendations engine, years-earned customer trust, and Kindle publishing platform—already seemed to have everything, so all new experiential models walk a tight rope of either frivolity or irrelevance. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—but in all retail spaces, growth in markets or methods has to be a constant, or business will go the route of Montgomery Ward’s.
Pinterest it seems, just happened to be both a sharing model and an experiential add-on that worked for what any retail business can never have enough of (when done well): customer inspiration. Zappos didn’t turn to Pinterest because one of their C-Level executives went to college with one of Zappos’ C-Level folks, or because a few middle managers from both orgs met at a golf tourney. Instead, it was the commissions-neutral folks building the products, who independently saw opportunity in Pinterest, experimented with Pinterest’s open API in their own space, and viola.
A possible new model for partnerships to come out of this? I’d honestly love that, and to see mutation-models blossom from a similar framework: un-related teams working together collaboratively, towards these experimental but potentially rewarding gems of experience opportunities. Throw An API On It! feels staid and incomplete, with it’s one-way each-way square circle from publication to adoption.
Off the top of my head, a Musical Chairs (or Spin the Bottle?) style hack-a-thon among product/dev teams from a potpourri of companies sounds like a real hoot. Or, maybe just the paradigms around “partnering” practices just need to shift a bit, to enable more early-stage ideation and development among the product/dev folks… before the snazzy BizDev suits work out the numbers, the contracts, distribute the prospectus booklets, etc. Heck, even some beta testing of early ideas to see what users would most like to see from each platform in a joined experience; why must so many of those decisions always be made in the “what control are we willing to forego” or “how much of this do we trade for that” context?
While Pinpointing was concepted, built and launched by only one team (versus as a collaboration between companies), the unconventional approach seems to have yielded a potentially very profitable licensing model for Pinterest that would keep its core platform fun, free of charge, and free of experiential dilution from advertising. But, this model was developed by Amazon resources—and that has no template for next-steps tied to it, for Pinterest to go forward with.
I’m hoping for the best with this marvelous bebe of a union. I do think that Pinpointing is quite rough around the edges (as I wouldn’t be caught dead with those gold sandals, and hippie clogs because I like ultrafine Merino Wool garments?!) and that it could benefit greatly from abundant post-launch tuning. Though props to the Pinpointing team for releasing their baby while still wet behind the ears, and not trapping it in a gestation cycle that would compromise so much of the user feedback and crunching of its algorithmic outputs against human expectations, that this (and many) products do need for refinement. In Pinpoint though, I’m right now energized by its promise of possibilities, as an experimental quickie-product, and as an experimentally approached product.
Kudos, to the folks at Zappos Labs, and to the folks at Pinterest playing along with an open mind!