Pinterest's E-Commerce Ad Exposure Looks Like a Strength in This Environment

The image-sharing platform is up sharply after pre-announcing better-than-expected Q1 numbers.
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In case investors needed a fresh reminder that some Internet companies are holding up better amid the COVID-19 pandemic than others, Pinterest  (PINS) - Get Report just provided it.

Pinterest is up over 10% in Wednesday trading after stating it expects to report Q1 revenue of $269 million to $272 million (up 34% annually at the midpoint) and 365 million to 367 million monthly active users (MAUs, up 26% at the midpoint). The outlooks respectively compare with consensus Q1 estimates for revenue of $269 million and MAUs of 353 million.

At the same time, Pinterest withdrew its full-year revenue and adjusted EBITDA guidance, saying it’s “currently not in a position to forecast the expected impact of COVID-19 on its financial and operating results for the remainder of 2020.” The company also disclosed that COO Françoise Brougher is leaving, and will have her responsibilities assumed by CFO Todd Morgenfeld.

In line with comments shared by peers such as Facebook  (FB) - Get Report and Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Report, Pinterest said its ad sales began to see a “sharp deceleration” in mid-March. However, the company also suggested that its limited exposure to ad verticals such as travel, automotive and restaurants reduced the top-line hit it saw.

Pinterest, which is still in the relatively early stages of monetizing its image-sharing platform (particularly overseas), is believed to get a decent portion of its revenue from e-commerce ads promoting the types of consumer goods that users frequently share images of on its website and apps. And for now, e-commerce activity remains strong for many types of goods other than “essentials” such as groceries, as consumers that can’t or won’t visit their favorite bricks-and-mortar stores turn to online shopping.

Also: Some of Pinterest’s other notable advertisers, such as consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, might still be buying ads at a healthy clip. On the other hand, advertisers looking to drive traffic to physical retail stores are probably spending a lot less right now.

On Tuesday, ahead of its pre-announcement, Pinterest said that the number of users engaging with its Shopping on Pinterest product posts, which can be promoted via ad buys, is up 44% annually. The company also reported that the number of such posts on its platform has risen 150%, and that the amount of traffic driven to retailers by them is up 130%.

Meanwhile, the better-than-expected MAU growth that Pinterest expects to report fits with the usage spikes being seen for many other digital content platforms -- from social media and gaming platforms to streaming services and video calling apps. Moreover, since Pinterest doesn’t calculate MAUs based on its end-of-quarter MAU count, but rather based on the average between its MAUs at the start of a quarter and its end, its current MAUs could be meaningfully above 365 million to 367 million.

Notably, Pinterest’s Q1 MAU upside relative to analyst estimates was driven entirely by international markets. Whereas international MAU guidance of 276 million to 277 million is comfortably above a prior FactSet consensus of 265.8 million, U.S. MAU guidance of 89 million to 90 million is slightly below a prior consensus of 90.5 million.

With COVID-19 lockdowns having only begun having a major impact on U.S. digital content consumption in early-to-mid March, Pinterest’s U.S. MAUs could be well above 90 million right now. The company might share color about how U.S. and international activity is trending when it reports on May 5.