The pandemic is pushing companies to find new ways to employ technology to create a better customer experience. Snap Inc is one of them.
Today, over 200 million Snapchatters across the world, including India, engage with their augmented reality (AR) features daily and over 170 million use the Scan feature to scan codes, solve a math problem, identify plants or even buy the latest Christian Dior sneakers.
Now, the company is toughening its AR arsenal, with even more interactive features and experiences that aim to blur the lines between the real and augmented world. At its recent third Partner Summit, co-founders Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and other team members announced several new products and partnerships with couture and retail giants, and their developers, creators and AR platforms.
“It's a great rime for AR,” Carolina Arguelles Navas, Snap Inc’s global product lead in augmented reality (AR), told Mint Lounge in an interview. “We have spent the last several years investing in Lens capabilities, so now we’ve got brands covered from head to toe. We are working to improve the underlying technology to make Lenses more realistic, immersive, accurate and easy to navigate,” she adds.
Snapchat introduced API (application programming interface)-enabled Lenses with which they aim to enable businesses to tap into dynamic and automatic ways to feature their real-time content in AR without additional work. This feature is a bid to make shopping and browsing products as close to an in-store experience when Lenses are connected to a real-time product inventory by the company. This will help eliminate showing products that are out of stock or unavailable, one of the big annoying aspects of shopping online. For this, the company has added a new round of fashion-forward features that make try-on experiences much more accurate and easy to use, and new categories to their Scan feature.
A big expense for ecommerce platforms is product return. This is also an environmental issue, as annually over five billion pounds of waste is generated through returns and much ends up in landfills. Snap offers features specifically designed to make virtual shopping more accurate and reduce returns. You start with Screenshop, which is a new Scan feature that helps users scan photos and shop similar looks with recommendations from different brands. Next, with their new body-tracking feature, user can step back and view their trials, like you would at a mirror in a store. The 3D body mass tracking gives a real output of where the edges of the garment would sit and even understands depth better if you have a good camera. The cloth simulation feature trains your camera to show you the fall of the fabric and how it is affected by movement with the help of a machine learning algorithm.
With their partnership with Farfetch, users can now use natural language voice command and say what items they are looking for and browse and try on on AR. Don’t like a jacket you tried on, just say "back", "next" or "reset" to view other options. Or you can simply take a picture of your friend’s great new jacket to find a similar or the same option. Piaget is their first jewellery partner and uses wrist tracking to help users try on their luxury watches via AR.
“We want to recentre shopping around buyers. With American Eagle, using our latest technology called Connected Lenses, Snapchatters can invite friends to hang out in the Lens experience together, and are transported to an AE virtual store location, where friends can live chat, select outfits for each other, and even build looks together on a virtual mannequin,” says Navas.
Gen Z forms the core of their community, and products are mostly designed keeping them in mind. One such feature is their collaboration with Poshmark, where there will be daily custom experiences built within to host live daily shopping events such as Posh Parties, as many as four times a day. You can even invite your friends to join you in these sales.
These features are not yet available in India, where daily active users have increased over 100% each year in the past five quarters. “We are always looking for meaningful local partners around the world, but we have nothing to share (in terms of an India-launch date) at this time,” reveals Navas.
Snapchat has often been under fire for safety concerns. “At Snap, we make privacy a priority. Even though our products are constantly evolving, our privacy principles remain unchanged," says Navas. "We’re always thinking about new ways that we can use our platform to make a positive impact in the world. From wellbeing and mental health to privacy and data protection, our community deserves support from our team and partners."