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Pinterest is one of Silicon Valley's hottest startups, and while companies like Facebook struggle to prove that they can monetize social media, many see reason to believe that the image-based social network is poised to deliver on the promise of social commerce.

That social commerce potential seems to have caught the attention of eBay, which yesterday announced "the new eBay."

In unveiling a new look, eBay explained that it was time for a refresh:

The way people shop is changing, so eBay is evolving to meet changing customer needs. The new features we’re rolling out are designed to make the shopping experience on eBay easier, more enjoyable and personal.

The ecommerce giant's redesign, which will roll out in stages over the coming months, provides for a "cleaner, more contemporary and consistent experience" that those familiar with Pinterest might be tempted to call a Pinterest clone.

Great design, but good strategy?

eBay isn't the only company that likes Pinterest's design. And for good reason: as News.com's Rafe Needleman points out, "it works." More specifically, Pinterest's UI provides for a compelling discovery-oriented experience. Since so many experiences on the consumer internet today are discovery-oriented, it's no surprise that Pinterest is influencing designers.

But even if Pinterest is a case study for great design, does 'copying' the Pinterest design make for a good business strategy? eBay apparently believes it will, but not everybody is convinced. One skeptical web designer, Jesse Fornear, suggests that "the Pinterest layout" is not a panacea:

It's tempting to veer away from your product's core offering when other products seem to be wildly successful with features that are easy to draw inspiration from. What works for them might not work for you. Design components like layout are often the tip of the iceberg. It's best to optimize for what you do best.

To that end, he points out that Pinterest's success is the result of design and functionality. "Not much credit is given to their bookmarklet, sign up flow, email notifications, target market, Facebook integration, timing, etc.," he points out.

With that in mind, it's important to note that eBay is rolling out improvements to search, adding features to capitalize on social media and allowing users to link their eBay and PayPal accounts for a faster checkout experience. So the company doesn't appear to be relying on a Pinterest-inspired design alone to create a better experience for customers. That's important.

Change needed

Whether the cues eBay has taken from Pinterest bolster eBay's fortunes or not only time will tell, but one thing is clear: eBay needed to change. As eBay President Devin Wenig noted in his letter to customers, the future of commerce is personal, global and mobile. That presents challenges for established players like eBay, and we shouldn't be surprised to see more of them looking at what upstarts like Pinterest are doing in an effort to try to solve them.

Patricio Robles

Published 11 October, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

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Jordan McClements

I'd be very surprised if ebay just rolled this out without extensive testing first. Maybe I'm wrong - but I think the question in the title fo this post should be "How much better will it work?"

almost 4 years ago

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