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Pinterest Engineering exec on adapting to COVID-19

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Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi speaks with Pinterest Head of Engineering Jeremy King about the social media platform’s upgraded ‘AR Try On’ feature, and 2021 outlook.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

BRIAN SOZZI: Somewhat under the radar, Pinterest shares have been among the hottest from the e-commerce players seeing boost in usage during the pandemic. Wall Street has given the company high marks for efforts to improve its ad tech in advance shopper content capabilities. Let's bring in Jeremy King now to see what Pinterest is up to. He is their senior vice president and head of engineering.

Jeremy, it's been a while. Good to speak with you this morning. So as the head of engineering, what's the biggest thing on your plate this year?

JEREMY KING: Yeah, thanks, Brian. It's great to be back to see you again. Yeah, I joined Pinterest just coming up on two years. And I really joined to make Pinterest more shoppable.

And frankly, the pandemic, what we're seeing is people really miss shopping. And Pinterest is a great place to sort of get that shopping experience in place. So you can't go browse the stores, but you certainly can add items to your board. And we can use our technology to help you find what you're looking for.

BRIAN SOZZI: You know, as I mentioned in the intro, Jeremy, the Street's giving you guys high-- really high grades on what you're doing in shoppable content. Explain that to us. What are you doing?

JEREMY KING: Well, Pinterest has always been about inspiration. And people come to Pinterest for everything from cooking, to home, to classroom ideas, to building a home office. And really, the number one request for a long time is once I've been inspired by that piece of content, how do I find it? Where do I get it? So we've launched a number of technologies, everything from bringing in hundreds of millions of items from catalogs from retailers from all over the world to our new augmented reality capabilities that allow you to actually virtually try on products like you're in the store.

BRIAN SOZZI: So with these new capabilities, I mean, does this help you make more money on the platform? I know you've expanded to videos. You've seen a lot of engagement there. How does this-- how does shoppable content change the financial complexion of a Pinterest?

JEREMY KING: Yeah, that's right. We've been doing a lot of work with creators. And last year, we announced Story Pins, which allow you to build a story both with pictures and with video.

And you see lots of creators coming to the platform not only to create unique content for Pinterest but also to tag items. We've talked a lot about using the creator infrastructure and the creator network to actually go through and look at the billions of items on Pinterest and actually tag the specific items. So we have retailers uploading millions of items from catalogs. We've been working with Kohl's, for example, on lipstick and eye shadow with our launch of AR eye shadow. And then the creators can come in and build unique content that actually shows off those particular products.

BRIAN SOZZI: The Story Pins, is that still in beta?

JEREMY KING: That's out. No, it's been out now for a few months now. We're-- now we've opened it to the creator platforms. And now we're going to let retailers and merchants actually create Story Pins on their own.

We've added a bunch of ad products. So retailers can come in and upload their catalogs. And, of course, they can boost a particular item in their catalog by buying an ad for it if they want to highlight a particular item. But unlike other platforms, items that get pinned to Pinterest stay on Pinterest forever. And so you see hundreds of millions of people getting inspired by products that are maybe even a few years old.

BRIAN SOZZI: Really, Pinterest is among a lot of companies that have seen an influx of new people to their platform. What are you learning about these new users to the Pinterest platform? How are they different than some of the folks, the hardcore Pinterest users from years ago?

JEREMY KING: Yeah, it's a great question. And frankly, we're seeing a growth in nearly every category. The interesting thing we saw during the pandemic was that Gen Z is actually growing at twice the rate of every other category.

Men is growing extremely fast. But we think both Gen Z and not only our growth around the world is really a testament to the platform that it can be used for everything from fashion tips to just getting inspired in the morning. Everybody wants to know what to cook for dinner. People are trying to get lesson plans for homeschooling their children, building a home office.

And frankly, we even saw lots of trending New Year's Eve outfits. And, of course, we get virtual birthday parties and those sorts of things. So it really is a platform that can support nearly anything that you're trying to get inspired for.

BRIAN SOZZI: One of the biggest buzzwords really in corporate America right now, Jeremy, I would say is sticky. Are the new people coming onto your platform or using one's business, are these users sticky? Will they stick around after they get vaccinated and go back to some form of normal? What does your data suggest? And can you keep these users?

JEREMY KING: It's interesting that you say that because as we saw the data coming in, people initially went straight to-- as the pandemic came in, they went straight to how do I cook a meal out of my pantry, or what do I do with my children, or how do I entertain my children? But very quickly, they went back to the inspiration part of our platform, so thinking about travel, or remodeling their homes, or that sort of long-term planning. So we do think they're sticky.

And as a matter of fact, one of the indications is whether people build boards. You know, some people come to Pinterest just to browse around for a while. But then if you're building a board, you're actually adding pins to a board, we see that as an indication.

We're seeing a 40% uplift in people creating boards on the platform. So that means that they're not only categorizing items and pins that they find, but they also intend to do something about it. So it's a great place to be. And it's been wonderful to see our growth.

BRIAN SOZZI: We've seen-- Jeremy, we've seen a big backlash over the past six months-- Twitter, Facebook, a lot of users just leaving the platform, deleting their accounts, getting kicked off the platform. How has that changed Pinterest's outlook this year?

JEREMY KING: Well, we want to be the most inspired place on the internet. The good news is that data and those sorts of political data and news isn't something that really is prevalent in our platform. We think about both privacy and safety as sort of number one, job number one on the platform. So we spend a ton of effort making sure that's clean and just full of inspiring content.

So we are not actually seeing that. We have people flocking to the platform, again, to look for something to do during the weekend, a weekend project, or what to cook for dinner. And we intend to continue to invest in making sure that's the safest place on the internet.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, we'll leave it there. Jeremy King, senior vice president and head of engineering at Pinterest. Good to see you. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you soon.

JEREMY KING: Great to see you.