Pinterest and Curalate are now pinned - to each other

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File photo: Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate.

Connecting the dots in its image-driven product identification and purchase strategy, the Philadelphia start-up Curalate announced a significant new partnership on Wednesday with social media giant Pinterest and its Shop the Look project.

Billed as a new shopping experience, Shop the Look invites Pinterest's 150 million monthly browsers to do more than just window shop in their favorite zones – fashion, food,  home décor,  gadgets, and more -- and “pin” (save) images and resource information for  items that appeal.

By integrating Curalate’s platform, which matches images with the retailers that market them, site visitors to Pinterest will now often be able to instantly “click through” --  moving to the precise sale site pages where the items are featured -- then quickly close the deal.

“Otherwise, they might just know the retailer where the item is sold, but would have to go through several layers of searching through departments and product type to find it,” said Curalate's cofounder and CEO, Apu Gupta. “There’s no point in inspiring a consumer only to frustrate them later. We’re removing the ‘friction’ from shopping online.”

Scoring the Pinterest relationship is a major coup for Curalate, which has been assembling a who’s who of giant retail brands as customers and social media powerhouses as partners since 2011, and garnered funding of $40 million.  

In a 2016 study of social media, the Pew Research Center calculated that 31 percent of online adults – and 26 percent  of all Americans -- use Pinterest, rating it several points higher in popularity than Twitter (worked by 21 percent of all Americans) and close to the likewise photo-driven Instagram  (28 percent of the population), with which Curalate also has a working relationship.

Pew found that women are far more pinterested. Nearly half of all online women (45 percent) use its virtual pin-board feature, more than double the share (17 percent) of online men who do, for finding and saving good ideas, planning projects, and noting items they’d like to acquire.

Along with its commerce platform, Curalate brings about 25  shopping experience clients  to the Pinterest party at launch, including CB2, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Target, and Wayfair. Its database holds catalog images and information for 850 leading worldwide brands.

"Pinterest research finds that consumer engagement with Shop the Look content is three or four times greater than with traditional, noninteractive content. That's an incredible increase in effectiveness for our clients," Gupta said.

Curalate doesn't take a cut of referred sales action, as many online websites do. "As an SaaS" (software as a service) company, we make money by retaining and growing our subscriber clients, who might start out paying as little as $12K a year. Then, depending on how they engage,  the cost can go up to six figures, typically low six figures. But it's only fair that the more value we deliver, we should take a small piece of that."   

Curalate software also supports matchmaking through recognition tagging  features like Fanreel (which works with user generated images) and Visual Insights -- a “what’s hot” tool that tracks the products being shared on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and others.

“The connectivity tissue behind all of them is making the shopping  experience better through visual content," Gupta said. “Consumers used to have to go to the brand or website. Now consumers are finding products on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.  Why can’t you just buy where you see? We’re trying to empower that, make commerce live everywhere and make the shopping experience online better. Make it easier to go from a moment of inspiration to a place of purchase.”

Nailing down who made that sleek dress or those hot shoes isn’t as easy as picking out a face in a crowded photo, “another specialized form of computer vision,” Gupta noted.  "Facebook now has better face recognition than the human brain. When it comes to products, to photos of people wearing things, it‘s a much more difficult problem. We’ve developed a number of technologies that allow us to recognize products in pictures. We constantly work on that. Even to this day it only gets you so far, though, because there are still humans involved. We’re creating jobs, at least. That's a good thing.”

Curalate's staff roster currently numbers 170.