Google challenges Pinterest on the joy of discovery

June 24, 2020
3 min read

Pinterest is a well-known platform designed for discovery and now Google is looking to take on that process by removing the human element of discovery altogether with the launch of Keen. Developed by Google’s in-house incubator Area 120, Keen relies on machine-based learning to curate content around various areas of interest for users, essentially making it the automated version of Pinterest. In order to access Keen, a user has to first sign into their Google account. Once logged in to Keen, a user can type in topics they want to learn more about. Once topics are saved, content around that topic, whether it’s an article or YouTube video, will automatically get added to a curated board without any further effort from the individual. Consumers will have the ability to view or delete content that gets added to their Keen boards; the more an individual displays what they like and don’t like, the better and more tailored the recommendations will get. Keen is currently available on the web and Android devices and plans for developing an iOS application have not been shared.
The core missing link that Google faces is that it’s ignoring the fact that people on Pinterest actually enjoy the process of discovery.

Will it Succeed?

COVID-19 has accelerated Mintel Trend, ‘Survival Skills,’ which embraces learning skills that have lost priority (aka bread baking), while also emphasizing pride in the sense of accomplishment that comes with owning an experience from start to finish. According to Mintel’s US COVID-19 Tracker (for the week of May 28 – June 4), nearly three in 10 US consumers say their hobbies have become a higher priority since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Digital tools have become an important link for turning the desire to try something new into an actionable plan and this has led all of the big players to rethink how they serve as a clear and valuable resource for consumers. Pinterest’s core focus on discovery has made it a key platform to watch, and Google’s new project is aiming to simplify the legwork that goes into discovery with automation. The core missing link that Google faces is that it’s ignoring the fact that people on Pinterest actually enjoy the process of discovery. It’s that mindset that ultimately turned Pinterest into the platform it is today. However, this new offering from Google could be a hit to Pinterest when it comes to driving new users who have never been driven by the process of discovery and simply want the results.

What’s Next for Pinterest and Google?

For Pinterest, tapping into the emotional components of the process will become more critical for growth. Pinterest has continued to bet on the eCommerce space and with consumers spending more time shopping online during COVID-19, this will remain a key area of focus for the platform. Mintel Trend Driver, ‘Value’ predicted that the consumer desire to find what “sparks joy” would continue to dominate the consumer mindset. Ultimately, that’s what Google’s Keen wants to simplify for the consumer, the process of getting from point A (having a new interest) to point B (taking action on that interest) in the most efficient and convenient manner. What has yet to be seen for Google is how much the aspect of joy is connected to the process between point A and point B; understanding that will be key to determining where automation serves a powerful role.

Diana Kelter
Diana Kelter

Diana is an Associate Director of Consumer Trends, focusing on North America. Diana joined Mintel as a foodservice analyst before moving to the Trends team. Her role on Trends is a combination of analyzing data and pairing it with global brand monitoring, to determine where macro trends take shape.

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