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Pinterest pins retail hopes on latest acquisition

Photo illustration collage of Julie Bornstein and geometric shapes

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photo: Robert A Tobiansky/Getty Images for SXSW

Pinterest’s acquisition of The Yes provides the company the tools to become the one-stop-shopping destination many social media companies aim to be and adds meaningful retail expertise to the C-suite.

Why it matters: Social media companies are no stranger to meeting users where they’re at, but many struggle to capture shopping dollars. The buy of The Yes is Pinterest's biggest bet yet that it can be a retail market share contender.

What’s happening: The acquisition (slated to close in the second quarter) brings Pinterest an extensive fashion taxonomy combined with machine learning that helps users find products that are tailored to their preferences and style.

Yes, and: Pinterest didn’t just bring new technology under its fold with the deal. It also adds Julie Bornstein, an e-commerce veteran with the know-how of ushering retail companies into the digital age.

  • Bornstein directed some of Nordstrom’s e-commerce efforts in the early aughts and also served as the head of e-commerce at Urban Outfitters and the chief digital officer at Sephora. Her last stint before founding The Yes was as Stitch Fix’s operating chief (she left shortly before the company IPO’d).

Details: Bornstein will join Pinterest as a member of the C-Suite (title TBD), where she will report directly to CEO Ben Silbermann and helm a new division where she will take charge of Pinterest’s shopping vision and strategy.

  • The financial terms weren’t disclosed, but The Yes was valued at around $100 million as of April 2019. It counts True Ventures, Forerunner and New Enterprise Associates as early investors.

What she’s saying: Pinterest and The Yes are a natural fit because shopping was always viewed as a natural extension of discovery, Bornstein tells Axios.

  • “[Pinterest] also realized that having sort of the core shopping engine, and a team with deep expertise in shopping, would really strengthen their ability to expand into shopping,” she says.

Context: Pinterest has dabbled in shopping, but it still has ways to go.

  • The company has rolled out an AR feature that lets users try on lipstick and eyeshadow as well as different products.
  • It has also developed Pinterest Lens that directs users to a brand’s website where they can make purchases from a snap.
  • The company has said it is actively working on developing native checkout on its platform (it hasn’t announced timing).

What’s next: Bornstein says she hopes to expand The Yes’s personalized shopping tools beyond fashion to home, beauty and food, as well as to a bigger, global audience.

  • Pinterest will sunset The Yes app and website once the deal is closed and merge The Yes team and technology with Pinterest.

The bottom line: Pinterest has said its mission is to make it possible to buy anything you see on the platform or get personalized recommendations for something similar to it.

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