EBay's new strategy: Copy Pinterest

The site isn't the first to try to 'pin' its way to profits, though.

By InvestorPlace Oct 11, 2012 3:27PM

Image: Couple with laptop (Daly and Newton/OJO Images/Getty Images)By Alyssa Oursler

iplogoIf I was Pinterest, I'd be a little irked.

EBay (EBAY) has redesigned its e-commerce efforts, taking a page right out of Pinterest's book by using an almost identical format to the fast-growing social media site.

It's the company's latest move in a shifting strategy that had helped it climb dramatically since January -- gains that slowed down only slightly after it hit a 52-week high last month. It is now trading at just over $47 a pop.

EBay may still be associated with its early days as an online auction, but it's broadened its reach -- adding direct selling, expanding its PayPal mobile payment services, debuting a fresh new logo and even making moves into Groupon’s (GRPN) deal territory.

In fact, nowadays more than 70% of its products are new -- and the Pinterest design reflects that shift.

Users can follow different brands in their eBay feed, and the site also makes suggestions based on past histories and purchases -- a lot like Amazon (AMZN), except with a more eye-catching layout.

eBay isn’t the first site to steal the style, either. Facebook's (FB) new Collections e-commerce feature, for one, allows users to "like," "collect" and "want" pictured products (essentially giving users three pre-made Pinterest boards). Users can then add comments (just like the Pinterest photo caption) to tell the social media world why they selected a certain pillow or scarf or poster.

This format has not only been proven popular by Pinterest already, but also makes the shopping experience feel social -- which is what Facebook is all about. And a move towards e-commerce is important for Facebook because, while it now boasts more than 1 billion members, the company has struggled with monetization.

Since its IPO, Facebook has lost just under half its value -- a far cry from the recent success eBay has enjoyed.

Of course, eBay’s incumbency in the e-commerce world gives it a head start. Facebook only has seven retailers participating in its limited rollout: Pottery Barn, Wayfair.com, Limited Brands' (LTD) Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors (KORS), Neiman Marcus, Smith Optic sand Fab.com.

EBay, on the other hand, already has more than 350 million items on its site. Plus, users go to eBay specifically for online shopping, while many simply use Facebook to chat with friends and post photos. Such expectations could make a huge difference.

One thing is clear, though: Pinterest sure is doing something right -- part of the reason many have been calling for bigger sites like Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO) or Facebook to snatch it up. 

But hey... why buy the site when you can just steal its layout instead?

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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