Pinterest takes a “first step” toward working with big brands

Pinterest plans to announce a new type of pin on Sunday that will highlight a large number of major U.S. retail brands, marking the company’s “first step” in integrating images with associated brands, and making it easier to click through links and purchase items. The move could be the start of a change in consumer perception of the site from a place for wishful thinking to a site where one can purchase those wishes. While this is just a first step, and the company said it is not currently making money from the integration, the power of the companies joining at launch suggests Pinterest could become on par with Facebook (s fb) and Twitter when it comes to attracting sizable brand marketing budgets in the not-so-distant future.

Pinterest REI backpack pin product pagePinterest is launching three distinct types of pins, with one type each for food, retail products, and movies. The new format will only work with items pinned from the launch partner sites, but the number of partners is wide-reaching, and will grow. If you click on a food pin, it will now include the ingredient list and relevant information below the photo, auto-generated from the original site. Product photos will show where you can find the item for sale, and the movie pins will show information about the movie such as its rating, cast and release date.

The list of brands participating in the launch demonstrates the strong interest from U.S. retailers in getting on board with Pinterest. Some of the launch partners include: eBay (s ebay), Etsy, Home Depot (s hd), Neiman Marcus, Overstock, REI, Sephora, Sony (s sne), Target, Urban Outfitters, Wal-Mart (s wmt), Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Martha Stewart Living, Whole Foods, Netflix (s nflx), Rotten Tomatoes, and many others. Companies who want to be included in the program can apply on Pinterest’s developer page.

A Pinterest representative sought to emphasize that the new pins are not a form of advertising, but are instead supposed to make pins more “actionable,” a term the company has been using for a while now, including in our interview with CEO Ben Silbermann just last week.

“We want to make pinning actionable,” he told us at the time. “Our focus has been to become a very valuable service.”

Pinterest recipe page pin product foodOne major complaint with Pinterest, which has given an advantage to sites like Wanelo or Nasty Gal, is that users frequently share or re-pin the same photo thousands of times, but when you actually click the photo to see where it came from the link is broken.

If more and more companies and popular blogs integrate their photos of inventory with Pinterest under the new pin structure, it could make items more trackable on the site — which would be handy for consumers and crucial if Pinterest wants to eventually profit from the traffic it generates.

And it’s not an insignificant amount of web traffic. While Pinterest doesn’t officially release any stats, a recent ComScore report put the number of users at more than 48 million unique visitors globally, and a February Pew report on social media put the percentage of online adults using Pinterest at 15 percent, which is slightly less than the 16 percent on Twitter, and more than the 13 percent on Instagram — and far more than the 6 percent on Yahoo’s apparent new friend Tumblr.

A company spokesperson said Pinterest is currently not profiting from the new integration with brands. But the strong interest on the part of the companies and the launch of a tech platform to support them paves the way for making money in the future. After all, Pinterest just raised $200 million in new funding — it has to be looking to make money at some point.

It’s an inevitable move for Pinterest to accelerate its growth, as we noted in a story on the small team’s unique symbiosis between design and engineering. But the site needs to make sure it crafts a business model that fits with its content, much as Twitter has built up promoted tweets.

Pinterest is still in the early days of that growth, but all sorts of e-commerce companies, from the startup Wanelo to behemoth Amazon, will be watching closely as this unfolds.

Updated at 9:14 PM to note that the new recipe pins will show the full ingredient list, not the full recipe.