What Snapchat’s new shopping tech means for brands
Snapchat is trying to turn its business into a virtual shopping destination that melds augmented reality with e-commerce, and at its latest partner conference laid out how it intends to bring retailers and apparel, literally, inside the app.
On Thursday, Snapchat hosted its annual partner summit, which is an event for brands, advertisers and creators to check the company’s new technology. This year, the conference was all about shopping, and Snapchat executives discussed major retailers such as American Eagle, Prada, Farfetch, Gucci, Christian Dior, Zenni and Poshmark, which have public profiles on the app.
Last year, Snapchat launched profiles for brands to build a permanent destination, and not just invest in content that disappears in 24 hours. Profiles contain videos, product catalogs and augmented reality Lenses, and they now have a “shop” button that takes consumers into digital storefronts on Snapchat.
On Thursday, Snapchat announced that the profiles, with the shopping links, were officially out of the beta testing phase and open to more marketers. For now, only merchants with a Shopify account can use the “shop” tab on profiles, but Snapchat will expand that to more retailers, according to Carolina Arguelles, Snapchat’s global product marketing manager.
The partner summit is an important event because it shows how Snapchat is developing all its technology that can be used within and outside the app. Augmented reality has been an important technological advantage for Snapchat, while rivals like Facebook, Google and Pinterest are still catching up in the space.
At its event this week, Snapchat showed how it is building a digital version of the real world that exists solely within the confines of its camera and Snap Maps, enabling commerce inside the app. Snapchat has 200,000 augmented reality creators in its community—the artists who build these digital experiences. Brands can work with those creators to incorporate augmented reality into their Snapchat profiles, and ultimately to reach consumers in this virtual shopping world.
Shopping is a major category that social media companies are trying to crack. Last week, TikTok announced it was experimenting with digital storefronts with an apparel retailer called Hype. This week, Facebook announced that it would promote more shopping events through livestream videos. Last year, Facebook and Instagram launched digital storefronts called Shops, which made e-commerce a central focus of the business. And perhaps the biggest e-commerce player of them all, Amazon, has been experimenting with livestream sales and influencer networks to jumpstart more social forms of shopping on its platform. The platforms have all seen the trends of products going viral in social media, and they are looking for ways to help retailers make sales.
On Thursday, Snapchat showed off how augmented reality has evolved to make virtual products appear more lifelike. One example, Farfetch, a luxury retail platform, is testing Snapchat’s 3D body scanning technology. The technology even takes gravity into effect when draping a digital jacket over a person’s body through the Snapchat camera. It represented an advance in how apparel is displayed through augmented reality, which has been easier to use on simpler products like makeup.
“The product has to be rendered realistically,” Arguelles says. “It means that we really need to be able to do more than just beauty [products], we need to be able to have a lot of different verticals.”
“We’re just starting off on apparel,” Arguelles says. “So that is one of those key updates.”
Snapchat says that over the 2020 holiday, American Eagle generated $2 million in sales through a pop-up shop on its app, which used augmented reality try-on technology.
At the summit, Snapchat also demonstrated ways to display products on other parts of the body like the wrist, giving a new canvas for jewelry and watch makers. Snapchat also developed a hands-free feature, so consumers can set their phone down and still scroll through catalogs of products without having to touch the screen.
Snapchat says it will offer more shopping analytics to brands, too, so they can analyze what products are getting the most interest in augmented reality. That data could help with ad targeting and product development. “They can get a sense of what styles, colors, what products, users are most interested in,” Arguelles says.
Lastly, Snapchat discussed how developers are creating shopping environments through “mini” apps. One developer, Poshmark, built a social shopping app for consumers to host “Posh Parties” with friends on Snapchat. Poshmark is a popular clothing resale site.
“We want to focus on building experiences around shopping,” Arguelles says. “Not just focusing on the transaction.”