Shoppability is the new black. There’s a trend towards everything being shoppable. We’re talking buy buttons on everything from YouTube videos to Instagram Stories. This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon but is one of the many trends that’s been Covid-accelerated.

Elsewhere – and for similar reasons – we’re seeing a separate trend: visual shopping. This takes form in product visualization and visual search. The former lets you try on everything from shoes to lipstick to couches using AR lenses. The latter identifies things you point your phone at.

Panning back, these two trends are on a collision course that could transform shopping. Point your phone at a new jacket a friend is wearing using Google Lens or Snap Scan, then buy it right on the spot. It compresses the purchase funnel through a visually-informed decision flow.

All of the above is well underway, but there’s a way to go in capability and cultural acclimation. Accelerating that process is eCommerce inflections in the Covid era. Another accelerant is apps like Snap that let AR piggyback on socially-fueled shopping and product discovery.

Camera Commerce: AR Monetization Materializes

Catalog Powered

Against that backdrop, Snap’s latest move is Catalog-Powered Lenses. These build on its signature AR lens format with a purpose-built format for shopping. This takes form in Lens Product Cards that can be activated from Snap’s Shopping Lenses to stimulate purchases.

These cards display product information like size, color, price, description, and calls to action. That includes buy buttons or direct links to a given brand’s eCommerce site. All along the way, the option exists for shoppers to visualize products in 3D using AR lenses.

And it appears to be working. Pre-launch partner Ulta Beauty reports $6 million in incremental purchases and 30 million+ product try-ons in two weeks. MAC cosmetics saw 1.3 million try-ons, with a 2.4x lift in brand awareness and a 17x conversion rate over benchmarks.

Beyond these two examples, the 30+ brands in Snap’s catalog-powered lens trials achieved an aggregate 250 million try-ons. Altogether, these shopping interactions saw an average 2.4x higher purchase intent and 14 percent sales lift over benchmarks in video advertising.

How is Snap Evolving as an AR Platform?

Sweetening the Deal

Beyond performance metrics, Snap is sweetening the deal for brands to get involved in visual shopping. That includes making Shopping Lenses easier to create, including no-code tools and templates. It boasts a two-minute creation process for style and beauty lenses.

Snap is also bringing more analytics to the table. These include real-time AR shopping performance data for a given lens. This can help brands refine tactics to boost conversions in what is still a new medium. That last part is key, as the AR marketing playbook is still being written.

Speaking of “new medium,” these analytics join an ongoing string of Snap moves to help onboard brands to AR marketing and make it less intimidating. These include the launch of its Arcadia AR-focused studio, the AR Lab dedicated agency, and ongoing Lens Studio updates.

Altogether, Snap’s catalog-powered lenses formalize a shopping use case, thus separating it from other lens activities. Those other use cases include more whimsical but less practical lenses (think: rainbow vomit). This is an ongoing evolution at Snap to evolve lenses into utilities.

Can Snap’s Arcadia Accelerate AR Marketing?

From Toy to Tool

Snap calls this AR evolution a progression from “toy to tool.” The thought is that viral lenses are fun and engaging, but it’s practical tools like shopping and commerce that drive real value. Part of that evolution is Snap Scan, noted above, to identify real-world items (or buy them).

Another key evolution for Snap is transitioning from primarily front-facing lenses (selfie fodder) to rear-facing lenses to augment the broader canvas of the physical world. That world-facing perspective opens things up to several more use cases….and monetization opportunities.

It also primes Snap’s longer-term play which is AR glasses. In other words, the move from smartphones to glasses aligns with the move from selfie-facing to world-facing AR. In fact, with AR glasses, all lenses are world-facing as the camera only points in that direction.

All of the above is meant to attract more users to shop on Snap, and more brands to market themselves. Those factors kick off a virtuous cycle – Snap’s AR playbook from the beginning. More lenses mean more engagement….which drives more lenses (and ad dollars).

We’ll circle back in part II of this series to examine another player making moves to collide AR and shopping: Pinterest.

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