Can AR give Snapchat an edge in a social commerce boom?

Social commerce is poised to transform the way retailers engage and interact with consumers.
31 July 2020
  • The pandemic has pushed retailers to seek digital solutions for business continuity
  • Social commerce offers businesses the opportunity to deliver seamless and consistent engagement with consumers
  • Gen Zs and Millennials are the primary drivers of social commerce success

Reduced spend on non-essential items throughout the last three months has meant that, while consumers have been using social media platforms more, social commerce growth is expected to slow, according to BI Intelligence – roughly US$2 billion less than previous estimates.

That said, the impact isn’t expected to last long. 76 million, or nearly four in 10 (38%) of US social media users are expected to make a purchase via social platforms this year. Social commerce figures will continue to grow again as social media platforms release new features, and businesses that previously shied away from e-commerce shift more of their activity online to offset a drop in brick-and-mortar footfall.

Social commerce can be a powerful tool, capitalizing on the captive, addictive experience of social media with highly-targeted, native ads, combining the functionality to buy as seamlessly as possible – it’s a lucrative and evolving channel for retailers, and one that they’re not going to turn away from quickly.

A recent study by marketing gurus WARC revealed that more than half (62%) of brands plan to decrease their investments in brand advertising in the coming months, while 32% plan to increase their spend on e-commerce. 

A unique characteristic of social commerce is its representation of products that appeal to the masses, yet feed on the consumer’s appetite for personalized experiences – consumers can feel like the products are ‘speaking’ to them and their tastes individually, while likes and comments – in successful cases – will reaffirm their interest in the product. 

Facebook, Instagram has dominated the social shopping conversation with multiple shopping-centric features including product tagging, Checkout and a tab devoted to shoppable posts. Facebook launched Shops in the pandemic, which is aimed at helping businesses create digital storefronts where they can display their products. Pinterest, famed for its visually appealing content, has expanded its “buyable pins” feature to more brands, aiming to get their own large slice of the social commerce market. TikTok is also offering a “Shop Now” button, tested by Levi’s.

One of the more innovative approaches to riding the social commerce wave, however, is Snapchat’s Lenses AR feature, which adds to a personalized experience with its advanced, immersive, if novel, extended reality feature, leveraging the 3D effects, objects and filters that have helped build its more than 170 million daily users

Snapchat Lense. Source: Shutterstock

With AR, Snapchat is taking social commerce to greater heights by enabling digital “try-ons” from head to toe for its largely Gen Z and millennial audience, who engage with the platform’s AR features nearly 30 times a day.

Last year, retailer Kohl’s teamed up with Snapchat to develop a unique experience for its customers while the holiday season was approaching. Making use of Snapchat’s portal lens feature, customers were able to experience an AR version of Kohl’s New York holiday pop-up store without being physically present. 

More recently, luxury fashion brand Gucci sponsored a global Snapchat AR lens that lets users virtually try on a pair of shoes. The lens also included a “shop now” button that made the products available for immediate purchase. The latest collaboration between both companies stamped its mark as an innovative way to adapt the immersive tech in retail and marketing amid an ongoing pandemic. 

Tech giants and retailers have been ramping up e-commerce efforts to meet shifting consumer behavior due to COVID-19. The need for social distancing and minimized contact has been a driving force for innovation, giving rise to things like virtual stores, touchless technology, digital payments and ‘Shoppertainment‘ streaming. 

Virtual try-ons could put Snapchat in a solid position to win over its target audience in social commerce. We’ve seen this feature being tested out for makeup, sunglasses, and now shoes – AR is opening up new avenues for brands to engage with consumers online without losing the tactile experiences offered by physical stores.

Snapchat’s AR lead Carolina Arguelles Navas, told Vogue Business: “We used entertainment to educate the mass consumer on how to enable AR. “We’ve moved from pure entertainment and expanded the use-case. And so with brands, it’s a really exciting time, especially in fashion and beauty. The Snapchat camera is connecting brands to their audiences in new ways.”