Though AR hasn’t demonstrated the world-changing capabilities that were touted in its circa-2017 hype cycle, it’s finding success in specific areas. Those include enterprise productivity and brand marketing, both of which were examined in recent ARtillery Intelligence reports.
Zeroing in on AR marketing, one company leading the way in providing – and generating meaningful revenue from – AR marketing is Snap. Congruent with its “camera-company” label, it made an early commitment to social AR lenses and continues to double down on the technology.
In fact, of all the players cultivating consumer-based AR products and business models, none have achieved the traction of Snap. Though social media competitors like Meta and TikTok have greater overall reach, AR lenses are more of a central priority and “north star” for Snap.
This includes 6 billion AR lens engagements per day, among other metrics. But what are the lessons and takeaways? What’s Snap doing right in terms of product and platform development? This is the topic of a recent ARtillery Intelligence report, which we’ve excerpted below.
From Player to Platform
Picking up where we left off in the last installment, one of Snap’s rites of passage was to graduate from an AR player to an AR platform. Lens Studio was born to scale up AR creation and broaden its use cases through the crowd-sourced creativity of far-flung creators and developers.
This platform approach helps Snap scale in both lens volume and ideation. And the result is the massive engagement levels Snap sees today – namely 6 billion lens interactions per day. That’s the rough equivalent of one lens engagement per human on the planet per day.
As it often goes with platforms, attracting developers is a key step, and Snap knows it. Lens Studio continues to attract creators through an ever-broadening set of features for creating, promoting, and monetizing lenses. It keeps them well-fed with features and incentives to participate.
“Well fed” is perhaps the operative term because some creators can even make a living from lens-based contract work for brand marketers. As we’ve examined, some creators at the higher end make six-figure incomes. These are folks that range from developers to graphic designers.
Speaking of incentive, Snap itself is motivated to attract creators in this way. The scale and innovation that these creators unlock translates to content that attracts more users. Those larger usage numbers then attract more exposure-driven lens creators… and the virtuous cycle spins.
All the above leads to Snap’s real endgame: ad revenue. Brand marketers are attracted to Snap’s AR scale. They’re also drawn to AR’s creative capacity to demonstrate products with greater dimension, and the advertising ROI it continues to demonstrate through AR campaigns.
From Toy to Tool
As the above platform development commences, Snap is simultaneously evolving its AR standards. Specifically, the fun and whimsy that gave Snap lenses early traction need to expand into the next lifecycle stage: Utility. This is a common path for emerging tech: from toy to tool.
This expansion is well underway. For example, Snap continues to cultivate world-facing lenses, seen through the rear-facing camera, as opposed to selfie fodder through the front-facing camera. The thought is that a broader set of utility and use cases exist in the world around us.
A few examples of this principle include Landmarkers, Local Lenses, and Snap Scan. The latter represents visual search, which is a true utility in that it positions the camera as a search input. Like Google Lens, this can help identify physical objects and contextualize the world.
As noted, this move towards utility is an evolutionary arc that many tech products follow. It’s all about fun & games before settling into lasting value in everyday utilities. Consider the iPhone’s path from novelty apps like iBeer and Zippo to staples like Uber and Spotify.
The same happened on the web. After the early 2000’s bubble burst from an inflated atmosphere of grandiose visions, the web eventually reached those elevated valuations… but in a different form. Today, the web’s killer apps are rather mundane and unsexy: search, email, news, etc.
“Mundane” sounds like a bad word, but it’s not. The above killer apps have one thing in common: frequency. All-day, everyday use cases aren’t as headline-grabbing as the novelties that preceded them, but they breed sustainable business models through scale.
We’ll pause there and circle back in the next installment with more best practices and strategic drivers in Snap’s AR operations. Meanwhile, see the full report here…