It has become a canon of the Internet: where people socialize, they must also shop. InstagramAnd tik tokAnd YoutubeAnd FacebookAnd TwitterAnd PinterestAnd Practically all others The social networking and messaging app on the planet has spent the past two years trying to turn every pixel of your chats and photos into a one-click purchase.
Snap’s plans on this front are more ambitious than most. She’s trying to take the entire shopping experience — you see a shirt you like on a stranger, see what it is and where to buy it, try it, buy it, wear it, return it because everything looks better on Ryan Reynolds than rinse it and repeat it — and swipe it through Snap’s AR camera. With the Camera Kit, most of this technology can also work within brand websites and retailer apps. There is always – always – a buy button.
That’s a lot to do, but Snap is moving fast. The company announced Thursday at its annual Creator Summit that it’s expanding its augmented reality experience features that let users use their cameras to virtually try on glasses and clothing, and it’s creating an in-app hub called Dress Up that it hopes will be something like the future of the shopping mall.
Dress Up isn’t meant to feel like just a catalog of things to buy, although it certainly is. Snap hopes it will be more fun and experience than the regular Amazon page. “It’s not just a product feed shopping tab,” said Carolina Navas, Snap’s head of augmented reality strategy and product marketing, in an interview. “Now there is a really basic utilitarian use case that we also focus on driving,” because obviously buying things is how everyone gets paid, “but there is also a huge area of fashion that is all about self-expression and asking friends for advice and having fun with friends “.
When you open the Dress Up Center and choose an item, you’ll be able to try it on through Snap’s augmented reality lenses, but you can also take a picture of how it looks on you and share it with friends to get their ideas. Dress Up will also feature creator content, as well as tips and ideas from the brands, all changing based on what you like, how you use the platform, and even where you are. Everything can be purchased everywhere with one or two clicks.
AR shopping as a concept can seem like a bit of hockey – how often do you really need to put a sofa in your living room to see if it fits? – But Snap says it’s starting to show up. More than 250 million users have used AR shopping lenses a total of more than 5 billion times, and Snap says its data shows that these lenses convert a much higher percentage of potential buyers than regular advertising. Navas said the appeal stems from the idea that shopping is more than just buying. “A lot of people think that the shopping path ends with a purchase, but this is the beginning of a customer’s experience of a brand or retailer selling a product,” she said. She pointed to one company, Too Faced Cosmetics, which allows users to scan their new eyeshadow palette with the Snapchat camera for a tutorial on how to use it.
Snap’s big challenge is developing its catalog to bring all the things people can buy into those AR experiences. So far, this has required a lot of specialist work building 3D digital copies of everything you make, but Snap is trying to make that easier. It announced a new technology called Snap AR Image Processing, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: it uses machine learning to capture regular images of a product and turn them into 3D models. The technology comes from Forma, a virtual experience company Snap quietly acquired to improve its beta experiences. Users just need to take a full body selfie, and they can try out just about anything.
Navas said Snap has been working on this technology for about 18 months, and is testing it with a few brands before rolling it out to more companies this year. “The actual process of creating an AR lens turned from an 8-12 week trial into minutes.” She said the technology is new but impressive, and when combined with user-entered information about height, weight and whether this AR T-shirt actually fits, it can improve quickly.
Snap, like any other platform trying to embrace in-app shopping, must be careful not to let the buying experience override everything else. Snapchat users may want to shop for their friends and their favorite celebrity looks, but they will love every photo they send hidden behind hundreds of buttons letting you know where to buy their eye shadow, necklace, and botanical behind them. Navas said that’s part of the reason Snap created its own tab, rather than needlessly incorporating the feature elsewhere.
But she’s also very confident that people love to shop. Many. “We meet people where their thinking is not only, I come to this tab to buy a pair of Prada sunglasses.” It’s, “I’m coming here to explore, have fun, and discover products along the way.”