Last week at Snap’s Partner Summit, CEO Evan Spiegel and team announced a host of new initiatives that aim to enhance consumers’ online shopping experiences with use of augmented reality (AR) technology.
The lean-in on AR also comes at a time when competitors such as Meta are focusing on the so-called Metaverse.
Spiegel recently told The Guardian that the Metaverse is “pretty ambiguous and hypothetical.”
“Just ask a room of people how to define it, and everyone’s definition is totally different.”
That said, the company has chosen to focus on AR experiences. The move to AR follows Spiegal’s beliefs that more and more people prefer to spend time in the (augmented) real world rather than a totally virtual one.
But this claim isn’t baseless by any means. In fact, (as one would hope) these assertions have loads and loads of data to back them up. For one, according to Snap’s Q1 2022 earnings, the company reported that 332 million daily active users (DAUs) use Snapchat every day on average.
Snap also reported over six billion AR lens plays per day on average and over 250 million DAUs engage with augmented reality daily.
Where the AR “aha!” moment happens for those, not in big tech or retail
Like many “aha!” moments, these moments are often the most clear and simple ideas/statements just reiterated until someone finally makes the connection as it relates to them.
So here’s the “aha” moment for augmented reality and the role Snap and other social apps competitors such as TikTok have played when it comes to influencing consumer adoption:
Many people have already leaned into augmented reality without even realizing it simply because social apps have turned to more simplified terms for the experience. For example, the following social media platforms refer to their augmented reality experiences as follows:
- Snapchat “lenses”
- TikTok “effects”
- Instagram “filters”
Instagram debuted its face filter offering back in 2017 and was immediately dubbed a copy of Snapchat’s.
So, if so many people are using AR, is augmented reality a safe bet?
Unlike the Metaverse, which Spiegel pointed out has various interpreted meanings, AR adds another dimension to the real world. That said, the bet on AR at this point is undoubtedly the safest.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Social media and shopping apps have been making financial and technological investments in improving their AR experiences for years. And it took a pandemic for at-home use of AR solutions to really take off.
Unlike AR, the Metaverse is still in its early stages and, quite frankly, still needs more time, investments and adoption.
And yes, there’s been a surge in consumer interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) like Bored Ape and Gucci digital collectibles and even virtual reality (VR) experiences, but at this point in time, the hesitancy behind the Metaverse far surpasses AR.
For example, the chairman of French luxury conglomerate LVMH, Bernard Arnault, has expressed interest in the potential applications of the Metaverse and NFTs; he is in no rush to jump on the bandwagon. That said, with big players in fashion vocalizing their reservations, this is more than likely to influence other players, both big and small.
These hesitations, ironically, are pretty similar in the early stages of AR. But that doesn’t mean AR has overcome these obstacles that the Metaverse now faces.
AR already lives in the lenses and effects we all know and love
Over the years, Snap has made significant investments in augmented reality. Some of these investments include filters and lenses.
Some of the iconic filters that include soft makeup looks, cartoon eyes and full-on costumed looks marked the camera company’s foray into AR. Later, the experience developed into try-on experiences with Kay Jewelers, Nike, Gucci, New Balance, and Olay.
Snap later teamed up with Perfect Corp. to allow brands and retailers that have existing AR experiences built with Perfect Corp. to turn those experiences into shoppable Snapchat Lenses, which could then be accessed via a retailer’s brand profile on Snapchat.
Meanwhile, TikTok, a more open social platform, has recently incorporated AR or “effects” into its platform. The move has proven to be a fruitful one as many viral videos have included such elements. That said, TikTok is capitalizing on the feature and has since introduced TikTok’s Effect House – an offering that allows TikTok creators to build better AR-focused effects.
@iamcreedbratton I guess it’s not like this for everyone? #creedbratton #discord #trippythoughts ♬ In My Mind (feat. Crystal Waters) – Never Dull
These partnerships are not only appealing to the Gen Z, but they also help enable social media platforms such as Snap to efficiently scale AR experiences, amplify their impact, and extend their experiences to other brands with minimal effort.
The bottom line
More people have engaged and are looking for AR experiences than they realize. From stories on Snapchat and Instagram to TikTok videos, these experiences have become a core component of what social media has become today.