Snap Expands eCommerce Reach For Brands With New AR Tech

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Puma, American Eagle, and Zenni Optical tested the upgraded tools to offer virtual product try-on via Snapchat and within their apps.

In late April, the Snap Partner Summit showcased a variety of features that expand the eCommerce capabilities of Snapchat, the photo-messaging app that’s especially popular with younger consumers. New software tools to create augmented reality (AR) shopping content give brands another way to engage mobile users and guide them toward purchasing.

The company highlighted how sportswear brand Puma, sunglasses maker Goodr, fashion retailer American Eagle Outfitters and eyewear company Zenni Optical use Snap AR Shopping to offer virtual try-ons of their products on Snapchat and their apps. A new in-app feature called Dress Up brings together those fashion try-ons, giving users a place to experiment with new looks and share them with friends before making a purchase. The feature is available to consumers in Snapchat’s Lens Explorer.

“For the first time, you can try on a new outfit without changing your clothes,” Carolina Arguelles Navas, head of AR business strategy at Snap, said in the presentation. “Ultimately, we’re going from ‘this looks good’ to ‘this looks good on me.’”

The new feature guides users to take a full-body picture of themselves while fully clothed. Computer vision technology analyzes the image and overlays digital renderings of apparel in different poses to help consumers make a more informed purchase decision. More than 250 million Snapchatters have used AR Shopping Lenses since January 2021, leading to more than 5 billion total engagements.

Puma is the first global brand to use the technology, letting customers virtually try on its sneakers by pointing a smartphone camera at their feet. After selecting the style and color, shoppers can go straight to the checkout to place an order for delivery, as Snap demonstrated during the presentation.

To highlight AR’s effectiveness, Snap’s Arguelles Navas pointed to Zenni Optical, which lets mobile shoppers try different glasses. According to Snap data, people have tried on the brand’s AR Lenses more than 60 million times. In addition, the Lenses that included Snap’s “true size” technology drove a 42% higher return on ad spend (ROAS) than Lenses without the feature.

Social commerce growth

Snap is among the social media companies that have built out their commerce functionality to help advertisers bring consumers closer to purchase. Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter also are seeking a piece of the growing social commerce market, whose US sales are forecast to expand from $45.7 billion this year to almost $80 billion by 2025, per eMarketer.

“Snapchat is immersed in the battle for share of social commerce wallet, as they – and other social media companies – continue introducing new ways to transact on their platforms,” Kelsey Chickering, principal analyst at Forrester, said in an email to Marketing Dive. “Leaning into AR use cases related to shopping, such as virtual try-on, uniquely positions Snapchat compared to other social platforms in the commerce space.”

The percentage of US online adults younger than 25 who said they had completed a purchase on a social network without leaving the website or app rose from 53% in 2020 to 61% last year, Forrester found in a survey. This suggests a growing appetite among younger consumers to shop while browsing their preferred social platforms.

TikTok signaled its intention to make AR a bigger part of its offering with its recent integration of Camera IQ’s tools to create AR effects easily. However, commerce isn’t part of the Camera IQ features; TikTok has made social commerce waves since jumping into space last summer. 

Improving AR workflows for fashion brands

According to eCommerce software company Shopify, merchants that add AR content to their stores see an average gain in conversions of 94%. However, creating 3D models for AR can be time-consuming, especially for fashion brands and retailers with thousands of different styles and colors. To help brands and their creative agencies with those workflows, Snap introduced the new 3D Asset Manager. According to the company, the software tools include AR Image Processing Technology, which lets select apparel brands repurpose product images in their catalogs to more easily create AR try-on lenses.

“Leaning into AR use cases related to shopping, such as virtual try-on, uniquely positions Snapchat compared to other social platforms in commerce,” said Kelsey Chickering, Principal Analyst, Forrester.

Snap added a selection of AR Shopping templates in Lens Web Builder, its self-service platform for creating digital imagery to decorate photos and videos. The templates are free for brands that import AR assets to create shoppable virtual try-on and product visualization lenses.

Snap also expanded its tools for software developers to help them add AR features to their apps. With the new Camera Kit for AR Shopping, third-party apps can add AR try-on and product visualization technology. The feature is now available for iOS and Android apps and will soon be available for websites, Arguelles Navas said in the presentation.

‘Measurable business results’

For Snap, the introduction of AR shopping tools comes as the company seeks to build on relationships with its growing user base, which expanded 18% from a year ago to reach 332 million people by the end of 2022’s first quarter. AR is one of the most popular features of Snapchat. According to the company, more than 250 million users engage with AR features daily, and content creators have built more than 2.5 million Lenses.

“In the past, larger brands used augmented reality to drive awareness and reach through expensive one-day takeover Lenses,” Jeremi Gorman, Snap’s chief business officer, said in prepared remarks for the earnings announcement. “Today, both brand and performance-oriented advertisers utilize augmented reality to drive significant and measurable business results.”