In a rather Pinterest-esque move, Snap Inc. appears to be joining forces with Amazon on a new visual search feature, with product results powered by the e-commerce giant’s marketplace.
The feature, tipped in the code of an upcoming Android Snapchat update reported by TechCrunch earlier this week, presumably works when Snapchatters use their camera to search products or scan barcodes. Users see a pop-up with verbiage stating, “Press and hold to identify an object, song, barcode, and more! This works by sending data to Amazon, Shazam, and other partners.”
The company’s music relationship with Shazam is common knowledge, but the Amazon tidbit is new and intriguing. If the Amazon-linked search works like the music search, then users could see product info pop up onscreen, layered over their camera’s view of the real world — a computer vision meets augmented reality mashup.
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a WWD request, and Snap Inc. declined to comment.
For Patrick Reinhart, senior director of digital strategies at marketing firm Conductor, such a partnership would be “a great example of the convergence of search and AR, and the dominance of Amazon.” He’s particularly excited about the prospect of the tech, which enjoyed a brief jolt from Pokémon Go, reaching more people.
“The most interesting part about this is that Snapchat is bringing this technology to a much younger audience who may not be exposed to AR technology in other ways,” he said.
Gaming is one thing, but day-to-day actions like shopping are another.
Reinhart noted that the technology itself is not new. Indeed, Amazon already has a visual search feature, including barcode scanning, within its own app. So the move looks like a way for the e-commerce giant to extend its influence beyond the borders of its mobile app. For Snap Inc., such arrangements have multiple potential benefits, offering more convenience for users while carving a new partnership revenue path.
It’s also another way for the platform to keep pace with the changing nature of social commerce. Early last year, Pinterest introduced Lens, an artificial intelligence system that can recognize products and call up the same item or a similar one to pin. Notably, the tech attracted the likes of big-box chain Target, which hatched an advertising deal with Pinterest for Lens.
The stakes for Snap Inc. have never been higher. After its high-profile initial public offering last year, the beleaguered ephemeral messaging company has been scrambling to stabilize its revenue. Last quarter, its $150 million revenue failed to meet expectations.
Snap’s stock has been trading in the $13 range, well below its IPO price of $17 per share.
Whatever impact this has on Snap’s business, the company’s ongoing development in this area could also have some meaningful impact on fashion retail. Snapchat still has a strong user base of young adults, with 45 percent primarily comprising 18- to 24-year-olds — a desirable demographic among many lifestyle and apparel brands, whose visually oriented businesses seem right up the camera-based technology’s alley.
Brands in Amazon’s market could stand to gain from this as well, not to mention the e-tailer itself — but how much is not clear. If nothing else, the feature itself speaks to digital innovation’s greater traction in shopping.
On that note, Reinhart had some advice for fashion players: “If you haven’t thought about [emerging techs like] AR or voice search, now is the time to start. [They] will catch on because it’s easier to take a picture or ask a question than it is to type something out. The truth is that people are inherently lazy and like things that make day-to-day tasks easier, which is what this technology does.”