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.
In the past, we’ve called Instagram AR’s “sleeping giant.” But a company more deserving of the title may be TikTok. It has exploded as a user-generated media powerhouse, differentiated by production quality, authenticity, and a use case that engenders deep user engagement.
The same factors in TikTok’s UX make it conducive to long sessions of content discovery. This can mean greater exposure for creators, which incentivizes and stimulates their production work. All that creation energy is fuel for any social platform, as it’s all about content.
TikTok’s combination of reach and engagement has also attracted brand advertisers. And it opens the door for AR. Like Snap and Instagram, TikTok’s camera-forward user bases are drawn to creative tools. This makes it natively primed for lenses and effects to enhance user creations.
But despite that potential, AR has been relatively underbaked at TikTok. Until recently, the technology sat where Snap’s AR efforts were before it launched Lens studio. During that period, there were a handful of in-house lenses but nothing compared to the scale it has since achieved.
To that end, a creator platform could be what it takes to fully unlock TikTok’s AR potential…
TikTok took a big step toward all the above with the recent launch of its AR platform, Effect House. Formerly available to 450 closed-beta partners, which have collectively achieved 1.5 billion videos and 600 billion views, the platform is now in open beta for everyone else.
Like Snap’s Lens Studio, Effect House will require some degree of technical abilities, but much of the UX is object-oriented (drag & drop). It also launches with ample documentation, templates, tutorials, and a “knowledge lab” to guide creators in the process of building AR effects.
It also launches with functions that provide a baseline for users to build on and add their own creative twists. These include segmentation, face mask, head tracker, face stretch, and 3D face. There are also elements like textures, materials, lighting, and shadows that creators can play with.
Otherwise, we could see some novel AR directions and formats emerge that are based on TikTok’s unique properties and dynamics. For example, will TikTok’s signature “Duets” inspire new AR use cases where effects morph and cascade through several progressive remixes?
Invoking Snap once again, one thing that it has proven is that when done right, an open platform can be jet fuel for AR. In fact, it now boasts 6 billion daily AR lens plays for more than 3 million lenses from 300,000 lens creators. This makes it consumer AR’s leader.
This represents the virtuous cycle we often invoke: Deeper lens libraries boost user engagement, which attracts more developers to grow lens libraries…which then attract more users. All the above drives the real endgame: brand marketers. But it all starts with the platform.
When applying all this to TikTok, the scale is even greater, given its rapid global growth. Last year, it surpassed one billion monthly active users globally. To put that into perspective, it’s more than 3x the population of the United States, and it has a firm footing in several growth markets.
Beyond sheer numbers, platforms can germinate new use cases by providing a set of tools that unlocks developer creativity. That process brings in more users through a broader set of use cases. This, again, is the Snap AR playbook. The question is if TiKTok will pull it off.
Of course, launching a platform is only one step. Snap got to where it is today through AR execution and investment. This requires dedication and focus. Snap hasn’t taken its foot off the gas pedal and continues to double down on AR. We’ll see if TikTok can do the same.
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.