Pinterest has shared its latest performance update, which shows a continued decline in active users as a result of more regions coming out of lockdown, and shoppers returning to physical stores, while revenue remained steady, despite challenges in the market.
First off, on usage – Pinterest’s total MAU count declined to 444 million in Q3, down 10 million on the previous reporting period.
As you can see here, its Q2 numbers were down 24 million MAUs before that, so over the past two periods, after a long stretch of steady growth, Pinterest has lost some 34 million active users overall.
That’s not a good sign – but then again, the volatile market conditions, as a result of COVID, are tough to predict, and of all the social platforms, Pinterest, with its focus on shopping, was always the most likely to be hit hard by the re-opening of physical stores.
During the lockdown period, in which Pinterest added over 100 million more active users, the platform touted itself as a virtual shopping mall, and a replacement for IRL browsing. Which drove major growth, but the downside now is that with actual shopping malls opening back up, the utility of Pinterest is going to be lessened, at least to some degree.
“As lockdowns eased, people have embraced life outside their homes, a trend that caused a dramatic decline of our year-over-year growth rate of monthly active users (MAUs) in Q2 and Q3, as consumer preferences shifted away from our core at-home use cases.”
This will be the main storyline of the platform’s Q2 report, but there is reason for optimism in other elements, and there is also an argument to be made that Pinterest should not be measured on usage growth in the same way that other social networks are, as it’s not as reliant on the same for its business growth.
That’s somewhat reflected in Pinterest’s Average Revenue Per User numbers, which increased once again in Q3:
Its international ARPU growth is still very minor, but Pinterest is still in the process of rolling out its shopping tools in more regions, while its US APRU continues to steadily increase.
Again, the argument here is that Pinterest has more opportunity make money from shopping activity, as opposed to relying on broader exposure to ads, because the focus is on incentivizing direct action with each Pin, instead of reaching the widest possible audience.
Pinterest does, of course, still generate its revenue from ad exposure, but the focus of the app is different, which could lessen the impact of slower growth, if Pinterest can maximize the users that it does have.
“Shopping engagement remains robust, with the number of Pinners engaging with shopping surfaces up more than 20% quarter over quarter and up 60% year over year.”
Pinterest is still developing this, but if it starts to take fees on purchases, for example, and if it can drive better sales results for certain verticals, it still has major potential for revenue growth, even with lower comparative usage rates.
In terms of revenue, its Q3 intake was up 43% year over year to $633 million.
Pinterest says that it saw increased demand from large retail advertisers, while overall product searches were up over 100% year-over-year. Searches on the Shop tab by Gen Z Pinners have also increased over 200% YoY.
The main impact, however, was in the CPG sector, which Pinterest says saw a slowdown due to “supply-chain disruptions, inventory and labor shortages, and rising commodity prices”.
Still, its revenue growth rate remains steady – though the concern will be that, if it continues to lose users, advertiser interest will also wane, which may force it to look to other revenue growth measures.
Pinterest has announced a range of new options in recent months, including its advancing AR Try On options, ‘Takes’ for Idea Pins, providing a more interactive element, and its Watch feed, a full-screen, scrolling, vertical stream of Pin content.
Drawing inspiration from the latest consumption trends (aka TikTok), Pinterest is specifically looking to align with the rising interest in video consumption, which also includes live-stream shopping, another element that’s it’s now experimenting with.
That hasn’t been a significant test as yet, but the continued evolution of the platform as a key product discovery and shopping utility is impressive, with Pinterest seeking to capitalize on COVID-lead boost in online commerce as a means to maximize its potential.
Indeed, Pinterest specifically notes the potential of Idea Pins in its update:
“We believe our new video-first native content format, Idea Pins, can drive deeper and more frequent engagement on the platform over the long term. Creator-driven content has proven to be an engine for engagement on other platforms, but Idea Pins offer differentiated value to both Creators and Pinners because they are designed to inspire action rather than simply to entertain.”
Again, its dedicated focus on shopping, as opposed to social engagement, will ideally provide more opportunities for Pinterest to maximize the users that it does have, so even if it has fewer, it could still drive stronger response for advertisers and business partners through its more refined focus.
And that could well end up being a much more valuable approach than some other social apps – while it is also worth noting that despite the more recent declines in its usage numbers, Pinterest’s overall user count has seen a big jump over the past year, and all businesses are operating in an unfamiliar environment, so how indicative jumps and shifts of this type are is difficult to fully project.
In this respect, you may be better off comparing Pinterest’s Q3 2021 numbers to Q3 2019 as a more indicative measure:
That’s not to say that we should let Pinterest off the hook entirely for its more recent slowdown, as most social apps have seen increased use, with lockdowns and other measures actually driving more internet usage, not less. But I also wouldn’t dismiss the two-year rise here, and the relative stickiness of the platform for the app’s more engaged user base (previous research has shown that up to 90% of weekly Pinners use the platform to make purchase decisions)
Indeed, Pinterest’s generating more direct sales for more businesses than ever, and at 444 million MAU, it’s hard to ignore that potential.
And as it continues to bring its shopping tools to more regions, its opportunities continue to grow. It may not be the best result for Pinterest right now, but its ongoing development, innovation and growth may still lead to big opportunities.
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Instagram Launches Live Test of Longer Videos in Stories
After it was spotted in testing last month, Instagram has now officially launched a live test of 60-second videos in Stories, which will mean that longer video clips will no longer be split into 15-second segments, and played across various Stories frames.
We asked Instagram about the update, and it provided this statement:
“The ability to create longer Stories posts comes highly requested by our community. We’re excited to be testing 60-second Stories so that people can create and view Stories with fewer interruptions.”
Instagram says that the option is currently being tested with a small group of users, with a view to providing more creative freedom, and further integrating the app’s various video options to streamline its creative tools and functions.
Which, really, is the key focus. Back in January, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri flagged a coming consolidation of the app’s video products, with a view to better facilitating creation, and scaling back the platform’s various tools. That started with the merging of its video feed posts into a single format early last month, along with the retirement of the IGTV brand.
As Mosseri explained to Decoder:
“We’re looking about how we can – not just with IGTV, but across all of Instagram – simplify and consolidate ideas, because last year we placed a lot of new bets. I think this year we have to go back to our focus on simplicity and craft.”
The re-thinking of its approach has been largely influenced by TikTok, which has become the most popular social app among young users, overtaking Instagram as the cool place to be.
Part of TikTok’s core appeal is simplicity – on TikTok, you open to a full-screen feed of video clips and live-streams, with all of it combined into one, optimized, focused listing, tailored to each individual user.
Instagram is far more segmented, with Reels in a separate feed, and Stories in its own section. That could be restricting optimal take-up, which is why Instagram’s now looking to bring all of these elements together, which will also, eventually, enable it to showcase the best of each aspect in a single, more-engaging stream.
The expansion to 60-second video clips in Stories is another step in this gradual merging, which, at some stage, will likely see the app open to a full-screen feed of Stories, feed posts and Reels, all in one, enabling IG, like TikTok, to use the full breadth of uploaded content to maximize user engagement.
It’s still a way off that next stage, but longer videos will mean that users can now post full Reels to Stories, for example, essentially merging the two functions automatically. Then it’s just determining how it shifts from the traditional feed to a more Stories/Reels aligned one instead.
That’s a bigger step, and a more fundamental change for the app. But as part of Meta’s broader focus on winning back younger users, you can bet that it’s coming, and likely sooner, rather than later.
Which is why this new test is a significant step. It’s limited for now, but you can expect to see longer Stories videos coming to your Instagram app sometime soon.
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