Pinterest’s new program places a checkmark on verified merchants’ profiles and offers more benefits.

On Monday, Pinterest unveiled its latest efforts to boost retail, namely a new Verified Merchant Program, as well as a slew of updates for retailers and consumers.

The program puts a visible blue checkmark on profiles for select brands and retailers that have delivered excellent customer service. Accounts are manually reviewed and selected, and the designation engenders a sense of trust, said Pinterest, which singled out Coyuchi, Filson, Lotuff Leather, Quay Australia and Ruggable as early members of the program.

The distinction comes with benefits. As accounts that have uploaded their catalogues, verified merchants are eligible for increased distribution with high-intent shopping experiences, as well as conversion insights and other metrics.

“The program [gives] retailers access to new kinds of reporting, where they can see different kinds of conversions that are happening, both organically and in paid,” said Amy Vener, Pinterest’s global head of retail.

“We’re also giving new, more real-time feed ‘ingestion’ opportunities. Obviously retailers need to share with consumers only products that are available for sale and in stock,” she added. “And those updates — to make the feed ‘ingestion’ process more real-time — is important right now.”

The idea is to help retailers make better data-driven decisions, while ensuring consumers have useful information, she added. Stores get early access to conversion insights, so they can see how much traffic and sales Pinterest is actually driving.

Pinterest’s catalogues feature was updated to shorten the time from feed ingestion to Product Pin creation. The platform is also adding new metrics, near real-time feed ingestion, user experience enhancements and feed ingestion scheduling.

Other changes to dynamic retargeting offer advertisers more levers, so they can fine-tune their outreach to previously engaged Pinterest users. For instance, they can appeal to Pinners who engaged with the brand online in the past or have unpurchased items in their carts, and then retarget them with the same or similar items they searched and saved on the platform.

A look at Pinterest’s updated Dynamic Retargeting.  Courtesy graphic

Such approaches were designed to help retailers optimize their efforts, while ensuring people see more of the things they’re interested in. The goal, according to Vener, is to support brands and consumers during these challenging times.

In January, chief executive officer Ben Silbermann told the audience at the National Retail Federation’s New York conference that the company was looking into manual verification to identify legitimate merchants. He also hinted at other updates, such as helping users more easily find health information.

Those intentions came to a head this week, as Pinterest introduced a new “Today” tab that corrals COVID-19 information, advice and inspiring content, and now introduced merchant verification.

“We announced [the Today tab] earlier than normal,” said Vener, explaining that the company moved up the launch so consumers and brands are able to talk about what’s happening in a curated way. Here, people can also get health tips from experts at the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, as well as how to stay sane or even enjoy their spaces more.

Pinterest’s new Today tab  Courtesy image

“[The Verified Merchant Program and Today tab] are the kinds of things we’re doing to create more value for both the consumer and the brand — to be useful,” she said.

There’s no doubt that retailers and consumers have been hammered in the coronavirus era.

For stores, sheltering in place orders have decimated brick-and-mortar business, but skyrocketing jobless numbers — at last count, a record 3.28 million new filings for unemployment benefits — puts physical and digital retail at risk. And it’s not at all clear how much the coming U.S. government stimulus benefits will help stem the tide.

Experts like Michael Foguth, president of Foguth Financial Group, urge consumers to spend stimulus checks on high-interest debt, or at least on “paying minimum payments on all credit cards or bills.” Consumers should limit their spending, he said, to just the essentials and supplies necessary in the near term.

It’s sage advice for individuals and households, but on a larger scale, it may have tremendous economic implications. And that makes one thing clear: In this moment, retailers can use all the help they can get.

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