Larkin Brown

Larkin Brown found the rare job in tech that blended her experience as a social network analyst at Google with her side job as a personal stylist. Now a user experience researcher at Pinterest, Brown studies how people use the platform and how that translates into real-world behavior. As Pinterest positions itself as a shopping tool — with some 10 million products for sale — that can include visiting Pinners at home and going on “shop-alongs” to find ways to improve the experience. “We always tell people, ‘Don’t worry about hurting our feelings; the things that are challenging and frustrating are the things we want to work on,'” Brown said.

This story first appeared in the October 7, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


How do you find people to say, “Hey, let me come into your home and watch you Pin?”

Fortunately, the people who use Pinterest really love it — more so than I’ve seen with any other product I’ve worked on. Most who are actively using Pinterest are really excited to meet someone who works there and to share their opinion.

Any surprising findings?

It happens all the time, because if we know the answer to something, we usually don’t send researchers to figure it out.

When I was doing research on shopping before we had Buyable Pins, I was going into people’s homes to figure out how they were shopping for the holidays. What we found is that people were really using Pinterest through a combination of their phones and their computers. Even though we have this assumption that everything is going mobile, when it comes to online shopping, our Pinners are device-agnostic.

Pinterest is developing a camera search feature that lets any image become a search query and thus, a shoppable item. What’s your role?

My team and I are running studies to make sure it’s easy to use and figuring out how this could be good for shopping.

It’s great when you can see Pins that are similar to what you’re seeing in the real world, but what if you could buy things from it? It’s tricky [to test], because we are waiting for it to be available. We have to be careful; we want to get early feedback, but we want to keep updates a surprise, so we have a lot more in store for research.

I think the future is that we are able to help guide people to what they want, and it shouldn’t be just looking at other people’s images. It could just as easily be taking a picture and saying, “That’s what I want.”

Where does the “stylist” element come into play?

When we do our own marketing shoots, and when we launched our shopping space, I curated a bunch of those looks. What evolved is that I get to dig into the trends we see on Pinterest and share that on our blogs. We can see when a trend is picking up and right when it is going to tip into the mainstream.

What’s heating up now?

Velvet. It makes sense because we have been coming out of a big suede trend. The other thing that I think we’re going to see is the next iteration of the bootie. There’s a combination of a David Bowie glitter and velvet, and a moto bootie with studs and embellished leather.