No doubt, like the writer, many independent (indie) authors will have noted Pinterest’s introduction of ‘Buyable Pins’ (Pins from which a user may directly purchase an item) with interest. After all, most authors, whether indie self-publishers or traditionally published, are constantly looking for additional ways to engage with their fans and readers. And, if there is the potential to sell more books, most will jump at the option.
Note: This topic is being discussed from the perspective of an author, especially indie authors, and does assume the reader has some fundamental knowledge/understanding of Pinterest. Nevertheless, some, if not most, of the points discussed will apply equally to those who seek to sell items other than books.
At present, the ‘Buyable Pin’ facility is effectively in beta testing and has been restricted to a small selection of United States of America (USA) based businesses. In addition, they may only be available to users of USA based software equipment (computers, tablets, smartphones). Nonetheless, this is a topic all authors, no matter where based, should be made aware of in preparation for future enhancements.
How ‘Buyable Pins’ work
The ‘Buy’ button in a ‘Buyable Pin” provides for users to utilise an ‘Add to Bag’ facility; similar to the ‘Add to basket’ in other online retail sites. This links back to the retailer’s store, wherever or in whatever format it may be; digital, online or physical.
With Buyable Pins, Pinterest enables credit card/Paypal details to be entered at the checkout without the user having to be directed to another site/location. Certainly an advantage as customers may be put off if they have to click through multiple pages/sites before being able to place an order. Once entered, the order details and payment information are sent direct to the retailer for them to process (Pinterest has no part in the actual processing of orders or payments). The intention is to provide an easy flow checkout experience while allowing the retailer to still own the end-to-end customer relationship.
Who May Sell
As already mentioned, the system is currently in beta testing and consequently, limited to a small number of selected companies. Nonetheless, it is probable the basic requirements will be the same for future applicants as it is for those already selected.
For a business to be eligible it must meet certain criteria:
- Must be offering high quality products;
- Must not be offering prohibited products e.g. customisable products (software); non-physical goods; live animals; alcohol; adult products/services; etc. (A comprehensive list may be found in Pinterest’s help pages);
- Products must have authenticity. (Promoted goods should express what/who the company is and what they offer.);
- Content must not comprise spam or anything bad;
- Must comply with laws and regulations;
- Content must NOT contain: explicit material; self-harm promotion; anything discriminatory; etc.;
- Content must not infringe intellectual property rights or any other rights;
- Must not suggest Pinterest sponsors or endorses them or their products;
- Must have a clear checkout process e.g. statements regarding price and product availability; taxes and fees; estimated shipping/delivery costs and timings; return and refund policy;
- Must have a good customer service support system.
Users should note, Pinterest will remove or block:
- Material that does not comply with the above requirements.
- Accounts that comprise spam; artificial boosting; repetitive unwanted posts;etc.
- Accounts and content where it is apparent people have been paid to distribute the content in large volume.
- Buyable pins and accounts where there has been a lot of negative feedback.
Note: All the above make clear the necessity for users to ensure content is of good quality and genuine. Any attempt to ‘game’ the system will be quickly noticed and bring the appropriate response.
To be eligible to use ‘Buyable Pins’ users must have set up a business account either by creating a new one or by converting an existing private/personal account. A valid e-mail or telephone number, by which customers may easily contact them, must be included in the ‘About’ section.
- Prove they have a valid ‘After sell’ procedure e.g. customers will receive a confirmation of the transaction including: order details; price; taxes; fees; shipping information and contact details;
- Accept they, not Pinterest, are responsible for ensuring: customers receive the product; the product is properly packaged; contact details are enclosed; product is delivered within stated time frame (stated as being within seven calendar days);
- Confirm they have an adequate return and refund policy e.g.: will respond to customer enquiries within forty-eight hours; complete any return or refund within timeframe agreed with customer (usually within thirty calendar days); make full refund or exchange for damaged goods or as otherwise agreed with customer;
- If an item is found to be out of stock will: update the listing within thirty minutes; contact the customer within twenty-four hours; respond to enquiries within forty-eight hours; keep order open if customer agrees to new delivery date; cancel order if customer does not agree;
- Acknowledge they are responsible for dealing with any dispute. Note: If a customer contacts Pinterest, they will forward the issue to the account holder who must get back to the customer within twenty-four hours.
How to Apply
The Pinterest guidance notes also state, where not eligible under existing conditions, companies may apply to go on a waiting list at Demandware. However, this is not the case! There is no waiting list! Besides, Demandware only deals with companies registered with them but even for them there is no waiting list. (The writer has suggested to Pinterest the notes be amended as they are currently misleading and cause confusion.)
Naturally, due to how helpful such a facility may prove, many Pinterest users will be interested to know when the buyable pins option is extended to others. There are two ways to get the information:
- In account settings, ensure the ‘Announcements about new features’ is enabled. This is the fourth option under ‘Pick which group boards you hear about’. Click the button so it turns red.
- Regularly check Pinterest’s blog: https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog (There is no option to enter details for the purpose of receiving update notifications.)
Some reasons why a company may not be accepted:
- Focus is on products not permitted/allowed (see above).
- Business does not meet transaction quality requirements.
- Company website requires login or is not available.
- Product leads to system error messages.
- Pinterest profile image does not reflect business.
- Pins contain: misspellings; excessive capitalisation or symbol use.
- Pins contain unacceptable language or content e.g. shocking; sensational; overly sexual; etc.
With an estimated 70 – 100 million monthly active users, Pinterest makes sense as a selling social media site. Estimates also suggest ninety-three percent of users use Pinterest to plan a purchase and eighty-seven percent purchase because of Pinterest.
The existing beta testing limitations (USA based companies only) means those in other territories may not currently avail themselves of the option. Nevertheless, it is understood Pinterest intends to role the facility out to others in the future.
Business’s need to have a good quality and extensive supporting structure.
The business requirements may mean the facility is, realistically, not an option for authors, especially indie self-publishers. However, it is known some indie authors have set up their own companies and, if they truly are able to meet the support requirements, it may be possible for them to gain acceptance but, under present conditions, they will have to prove the fact.
There is suggestion the facility may, eventually, be rolled out to the ‘general’ public. If that is so, then it is possible requirements may be less restrictive though the writer, at present, cannot see how unless Pinterest is prepared to take on some of the tasks. Doubtful but who knows what the future may hold. Perhaps companies such as Shopify and Big Commerce, in the interests of gaining further clients and income, will be willing to provide additional facilities to make the process easier for indie entrepreneurs, whether an author or not. Be very nice if they do though the inevitable consequent costs may limit an indie author’s ability to participate.