How Snap is helping augmented reality become a cornerstone of retail

While more and more retailers and brands investing time and money into augmented reality (AR), none are doing so more successfully than Snapchat. One of the pioneers of the tech, the popular photo-sharing app also acts as a bridge for AR, helping it span the gap between social media’s plaything and serious retail strategy.

The tech has not only caught the eye of Gen-Z – who mainly use the tool to send friends videos on Snapchat using a range of AR filters to blend 2D and 3D realities together on-screen – but retailers are also taking notice, and keenly.

O2 recently utilised the tech for its ‘Store of the future’ virtual shop on Snapchat. This allowed users to visit a virtual store on the app and shop three hero Samsung products by clicking on them to explore more detail and even buy through a Shop Now button present throughout the lens experience.

The campaign was introduced as part of the mobile network provider’s Black Friday strategy to showcase some of Samsung’s key products.

Facebook’s recent rebrand to Meta has prompted a wave of retailers, social media platforms and ecommerce giants to all explore the possibility of augmented reality technology.

Nike has recently announced the creation of its own metaverse, ‘Nikeland’, created in tandem with online gaming platform Roblox.

The virtual world features Nike buildings, arenas and fields where players can compete in mini-games including dodgeball, tag and ‘the floor is lava’.

A digital showroom also lets users dress their virtual characters in Nike’s latest digital products including classics such as the brand’s Air Force 1, Nike Blazer, Air Force 1 Fontanka and Air Max 2021, alongside an exclusive Roblox design of the Mercurial Football Boot.

The marriage of both AR and retail is a huge opportunity for brands to capitalise on, with Snap (formerly known as Snapchat) aiming to be the first stop.

“We’ve seen a massive shift in in general in terms of what retailers are focused on, and a lot of their efforts are driving towards not only just ecommerce, but social commerce,” Snap’s product marketing manager Toccara Baker told Charged.

READ MORE: Facebook rebrands wider company as Meta

“And we’ve really seen that in the last couple of years, AR in general has become a cornerstone of not only retail, but also ecommerce plans as it supports overall business goals and helping to solve general challenges.”
Snap wants to be the place where retailers come when implementing AR strategies into their plans.

“For us as a company, from a product perspective, we really have been focused on ensuring that we’re meeting that need for retail advertisers to bring a really great shopping experience to the Snapchat community,” Baker said.

“This year we released a product called profiles that are available for marketers to leverage. That is really allowing them to build an organic presence on our platform, doing things like build stores pin content and use really engaging lenses that they’ve built with us to deepen that relationship with the startup community.”

To the naked eye these might be buzzwords, but for Snap’s retailers they are making huge differences.

“Our dynamic ad formats that are available for advertisers to use are really driving relevancy and increasing efficiency,” Baker explained.

“AR allows our audience not only to spend time with items and visualise them through augmented reality, but also to be able to actually purchase those those items.”

Snap is traditionally known as a social media platform among its users, however the company separated from its initial Snapchat name, to rebrand under the Snap banner. But Baker believes that the company is merely evolving its direction instead of rebranding.

READ MORE: Snap to help brands create augmented reality ads with new studio

“Really what we’re doing is evolving the way in which our Snapchat community, and advertisers can engage with each other and doing so through through technology.

“So with AR shopping specifically, technology has really changed. For example, three years ago if you wanted to see what a shoe looks like, on your foot, it wouldn’t really look realistic, right?

“But now, things like machine learning and other capabilities have changed so that you can do things like try on clothing, which is really important for retailers when customers are trying on and makeup.”

The pandemic-fuelled shift to online shopping may be new territory for many of us, but Gen Z and millennials are very used to the concept, according to Baker

“Gen Z, Millennials, they’re very at home with shopping on their mobile and trying things on virtually – it’s not like they have to learn to do that, it happens naturally,” she said.

“The past 18 months obviously accelerated things from a bricks-and-mortar perspective, but that change is happening anyway.”

As a show of intent towards pushing further into the retail space, Snap recently appointed Amber Sayer in the newly created position of senior head of retail and commerce.

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