China's "Pinterest" in a faster profit-making mode

Different from Pinterest.com in the United States, China’s Pinterest-type websites are mainly based on the cooperation with e-commerce sites
Written by Zhang Dan, Contributor

In 2012, the Pinterest model has quickly assumed a new battlefield in China’s internet world, as a report by Analysys International shows that there are already nearly 30 share communities similar to Pinterest in China.

Different from the Pinterest.com in the United States, China’s Pinterest-type websites are mainly based on the cooperation with e-commerce websites. One of their major partners is Taobao.com - China’s largest e-commerce platform. So it seems that China’s Pinterest-type websites are more focused on the sharing of shopping experiences than the sharing of ideas and interests.

Meilishuo.com is a typical Chinese Pinterest-pattern website which boasts millions of users. On this website you will find that most of its pictures are from one single source: the pictures of clothes and accessories at Taobao.com. When a picture catches the eyes of Meilishuo users, they just need to click it to get into Taobao.com, where they can immediately purchase the commodity in that picture. A staff member of Meilishuo who refused to be identified told us, “We share the profit with Taobao in the manner of CPS, which is an important source of our revenue.”

In fact, on Pinterest.com, the shopping section does not take a particularly large domain among other sections. So what accounts for the close bond between Chinese websites such as Mogujie.com and Meilishuo.com and e-commerce?

Huang Xiuyuan, an entrepreneur and researcher on the Pinterest model, associated this trend with the characteristics of Chinese netizens, who are mainly fashion-pursuing young people with limited incomes. While Taobao.com, the biggest e-commerce website, contains a large quantity of inexpensive and fashionable commodities, not all of them are of good quality. So it used to take customers much time to find out the right one from a multitude of goods. Websites like Meilishuo.com save shopping time for e-customers by quickly sorting out proper goods with the help of netizens’ recommendation and comments.

Li Yanzhu, co-founder of Mogujie.com, another website operated in the mode of Pinterest, revealed that the website’s monthly revenue had currently reached 3 million RMB, of which the bulk came from the revenue-sharing of Taobao, which would commonly share 5% of its total revenue.

In fact, there are also websites operated in the 100% Pinterest style in China. Huaban.com, a website which has acquired millions of dollars of venture capital within just a few months of its foundation, is one of them. However, it has yet to be seen whether this 100% style would work in the home market. Xu Chaojun, CEO of Diandian.com, a website whose model is similar to that of Tumblr, remarked, “Those 100% Pinterest-style websites will surely have to change into the shopping-guide model of Meilishuo.com, otherwise they can not survive without the trade and supply chain.”

Websites such as Meilishuo.com are, actually, quite popular among the retailers of Taobao. Many retailers are only of small or medium size, thus lacking powerful promotion channels to help make their goods known. Pinterest, specially adapted to the Chinese market, comes just in time to be the platform for them. Yet, being a third party, these websites in Pinterest model have not met the same degree of enthusiasm from Taobao, which also has its own Pinterest – Like.etao.com under its affiliated Etao.com.

Though many Chinese internet entrepreneurs begin and develop their career by copying foreign business models, Pinterest in China is not a mere reproduction of its foreign counterpart due to its cooperation with e-commerce. After all, by getting revenue-sharing from these e-commerce platforms, Chinese Pinterest websites can expect a quicker return on capital.

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