What does Rakuten, Etsy, JcPenney, Barney's New York, The Fancy and Pinterest have in common?
Well, for starters, they all believe in the art of inspiration.
Rakuten, described in a recent Forbes article as the biggest eCommerce site in the world, has also been called the "Amazon of Japan" since it purchased Buy.com in the U.S.s and other similar eCommerce platforms in Germany, Brazil, France, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan; building what appears be an impressive global domination. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of the Japanese e-commerce site Rakuten, is the man responsible for this quiet giant.
Along with acquiring Buy.com in the U.S., Rakuten has bought out e-commerce sites in Germany, Brazil, France, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. Rakuten also made a multi-million dollar investment in Pinterest last year. It appears that Mikitani cares more about the user experience than he does about flipping a shopper over to the online basket as effecient as possible...which is an interesting path that Pinterest is about travel.
In a recent Business of Fashion article, The Fancy reportedly raised more funding from the owner of Barney's New York, whose son also happens to work at The Fancy. But even more interesting than that is that while billionaire retail investor and owner of Barney's, Richard Perry is throwing more money at the inspiration-inspired side of eCommerce, he also raised his stake in ailing retail giant JcPenney. Makes ya think.
It's all something to watch, for sure, as Pinterest puts together a plan to add more ads and Jcp and Barney's looks for a way to stay inspirational and young in the face of the unknown for retailers and shoppers alike. It should also be noted that some of the same investors (Andreesson Horowitz, namely) for The Fancy also invested in the last round of investments for Pinterest; so it appears that even the investment community believes in the art of inpiration to some point.
In other news, Etsy just launched a collaboration with brands on it's local handmade goods site to offer curated social shopping pages. In an article that appeared on sproutsocial.com, the author admits that the new pages look an awful lot like Pinterest pages. Not that we haven't seen Pinterest-like platforms or pages in the past. It seems that EVERYONE wants to inspire and that's a good thing, right? Read an article in Pinit.com that helps explain the scene a little more and why pinning is the next wave of social media...and it's over a year old. Still good.
And now the best for last. A letter from Ben. Ben of Pinterest. (I like Ben. I wrote about how he looked like hell. I also wrote about his passion when I wrote about the need to never cease to wonder. so, yeah, I'm a big fan.) So you can imagine how surprised and delighted I was to get an email from him, telling me that Pinterest was about to launch something called a Promoted Pin; advertising on Pinterest. Of course, there has been much ado about nothing from this news, but only time will tell. Will Pinterest push out the best of advertising in a way that doesn't deteriorate it's inspirational value or will the onboarding of less-than-interesting brand advertising cloaked as pins prove to be as inoculous as Gmail ads?
I've said that people are stupid before (back in 2010, but I didn't really mean it), but what I really meant was the opposite. People get it. More than advertisers and platform developers and even investors want to believe. We get it. But sometimes, when conditions are just right, we will buy it. More than ads and new talk from new dads, that's what is being hedged.