Shoppability is the new black. There’s a trend towards all things being shoppable. We’re talking buy buttons on everything from YouTube videos to Instagram Stories. This isn’t new but is one of many trends that’s been Covid-accelerated as it piggybacks on eCommerce inflections.
Elsewhere – and for similar reasons – we see a separate trend: AR shopping, also known as “camera commerce.” This involves 3D product visualization to virtually try on everything from cosmetics to couches. It also includes visual search to identify and buy physical objects.
Panning back, these two trends – shoppability and camera commerce – are on a collision course. Point your phone at a jacket a friend is wearing using Snap Scan, then buy it right on the spot. This process compresses the purchase funnel through a visually-informed shopping flow.
This is the topic of a recent report from our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence. Entitled The Immersive Commerce Era: AR & Shopping Collide, it breaks down opportunities and happenings at the intersection of social commerce and AR. We’ve excerpted it below.
After laying the groundwork in earlier installations of this series, we now switch gears to drill down into the players at the intersection of AR and shopping. And what better place to start than the place that’s become a bastion of product discovery and AR-guided shopping: Instagram.
Backing up, one of AR’s emerging attributes is that it isn’t a silver bullet. Though it was trumpeted in its circa-2017 hype cycle to be a looming force that will revolutionize everything, it turns out to have narrower applicability. It’s still valuable but in a limited number of areas.
The lesson here is that AR works best when infused in fitting places. AR commerce in particular works best when it can integrate into an existing shopping flow, as we’ll examine later in this series in light of Houzz. AR is too early and unproven to make users go out of their way.
This is why Instagram is natively primed for AR. Shopping and product discovery are activities that users expect on Instagram. Its highly-visual and camera-forward persona is naturally conducive to discovering products – especially fashion items – from influencers.
To back up the claim that shopping is natural on Instagram, Meta reports that 1.6 million users tag at least one brand each week. This includes content that ends up in the formal Shop tab, as well as the main Instagram feed – both of which see high shopping intent.
That shopping-forward UX provides a softer landing for AR… but it only gets you so far. The rest comes from adding AR in ways that are additive to the experience. And this is what Instagram continues to do. The idea is to add product visualization to the shopping flow.
To break that down, users can discover new products on their feed. AR then offers the ability to better contextualize a given product by trying it on or visualizing it in their space through AR. Then to seal the deal, they can purchase it on the spot. It’s an all-in-one shopping experience.
Instagram continues to cultivate the above behavior among users… then offers paid engagement to advertisers. The former happens to the tune of 700 million AR lens users, while the latter happens through sponsored lens options it offers to brands.
Instagram’s other advantage and alignment with AR is the fact that its owner happens to be keen on immersive tech. Meta’s AR and VR investments are no secret. But Instagram’s sponsored lens play is one of the only revenue-generating parts of that plan today.
In fact, Instagram’s one-billion active users and camera-forward persona are more aligned with AR than other Meta properties. Social sharing is also core to Instagram which drives lens distribution virally, just like Snapchat. This adds an additional viral kick to lens distribution.
But despite all that alignment, Instagram’s AR integrations have been overshadowed. All the hype and handwringing over Meta’s metaverse ambitions is a sexier news story than the gradual advancement of a real business in Instagram’s sponsored AR lens revenue.
Altogether Meta has several tracks for spatial computing, which will eventually converge. It has VR ambitions to connect the world in more immersive ways (and monetization therein), its longer-term and well-exposed metaverse play, and nearer-term mobile AR lenses.
The latter is the least sexy of the lot. But it’s a key step to getting users and developers acclimated to AR. That will prime the next era of AR that Meta is aiming for. But in the meantime, its mobile AR play – led by Instagram – is generating real traction and revenue today.
We’ll pause there and circle back in the next installment of this series to examine other tech giants establishing strategic positions at the intersection of AR and shopping. Meanwhile, see the full report here.