amazon and snapchat

In an interesting partnership, Amazon is going to help Snapchat when it comes to social shopping.  This will pit Snapchat against Instagram and Pinterest.   Today, Snapchat announced that it’s slowly rolling out a new visual product search feature.  This had previously been codenamed “Eagle”.  How does this work? Users can use Snapchat’s camera to scan a physical object or barcodes. This will then bring up a card showing the item, and similar ones along with the name of the item, price, thumbnail image, and average review/review score and Prime availability. When you tap on the item, you will be directed to Amazon’s app or site to buy it.

What’s great about this technology is that Snapchat determines if you’re scanning a song, QR Snapcode or object and then Amazon’s machine vision technology recognizes logos, artwork, package covers or other unique identifying marks to find the product.  This is only rolling out to a small percentage of U.S. users first before Snap considers it for other countries.

Of course, I have a few questions, including is this going to get used? Is this something that is going to be beneficial for both Snapchat and Amazon?  What we don’t know is how much this is going to cost Snapchat or Amazon.  Snap is refusing to disclose any financial terms of the partnership.  It could be earning a referral fee for each thing you buy from Amazon, or it could just be doing the legwork for free in exchange for added utility. Snapchat wants their camera to become the new cursor, which is also an interesting notion from a technology perspective, isn’t it?

Why is this happening now?  Social commerce is heating up as Instagram launches Shopping Tags within Stories and a dedicated Shopping Channel in Explore.  Pinterest currently opens up Shop the Look pins and has 250 million monthly users.  This particular feature could be a hit with the younger audience who use the app.  In the United States, Snapchat users are 20% more likely to have a mobile phone purchase than non-users.  60% are more likely to make impulse purchases, and that’s what Amazon wants!

The feature could prove useful when you don’t know the name of the product you’re looking at, as with shoes – for example. That could turn visual search into a new form of word-of-mouth marketing where every time an owner shows off a product, they’re effectively erecting a billboard for it. Eventually, visual search could help users shop across language barriers.

Amazon is clearly coming around to social partnerships.  Have they finally recognized this as an inadequacy?  Along with being named Snapchat’s official search partner, it’s also going to be bringing Alexa voice control to Facebook’s Portal video chat screen, which is reportedly debuting this week.   Not only that, but Snapchat could use this help.  They are now losing both users and money.  They are down from 191 million to 188 million daily active users, and burning through $353 million.  This kind of partnership could be a better way to approach this, rather than trying to build all of their technology in-house.   If Snap can convince advertisers, they might be able to pay to educate people on how to scan their products with Snapchat.

Snap keeps saying that they want to be a camera company, but it’s really through augmented reality, which is a way to see the world.  The big question will be whether or not Snap can change the way that we interact with the world – through a camera.

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