Snapchat is hosting its second annual Partner Summit today, and it's made a range of product announcements, which will have a big impact on a broad range of in-app elements moving forward.
And they'll even move beyond the app, with Snap also unveiling its latest, AR-enabled Spectacles, which are not being made available to consumers as yet, but do point to the next stage of development for the company.
There's a heap to take in - here's an overview of all the key announcements.
First off, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel announced that Snapchat is now being used by 500 million people every month.
Snapchat's daily active user count, which is the company's main focus, is at 280 million, but the monthly figure underlines the app's ongoing growth, and enduring popularity, particularly with younger users.
For comparison, Pinterest is at 478 million MAU, while Twitter is, reportedly, at 353 million. Given this, it's worth considering the scope of Snap's reach and audience, and the rising influence the app now has within these user brackets.
The main product announcement of note is Snap's new, AR-enabled Spectacles.
Yes, full AR overlay, within Spectacles - not just a camera-connected device. Reports had suggested that Snapchat had been developing this next stage of Spectacles for some time, and now, we've got the first look at what's coming, and where Snap is headed with its AR wearable tool.
It's not fully evolved as yet. As you can see from the demo, there are still some restrictions on the overlay, and it's not the wholly immersive visual companion it will eventually become at this stage. But it's getting there, and with this, Snap will be looking to stay in touch with the next stage of AR connection, which is set to become a much bigger element in consumer connection, particularly with Facebook, Apple and others also developing their own AR wearable devices.
The new Spectacles aren’t being made available to the public as yet. Snapchat's partnering with a range of AR creators "to reimagine the way we communicate, live, and explore the world together through AR experiences built in Lens Studio". But the next stage is coming, and it's interesting to see how Snap is looking to stay in touch, and adapt its tools in line with the next evolution of AR technology.
For brands, the big announcement of the day is Public Profiles for Businesses.
As you can see, the new business profiles will incorporate the various brand elements now available in the app into a consolidated presence, and will include new options like a shop display to highlight products.
As explained by Snap:
"With Public Profiles, you can connect with your customers organically by highlighting useful and engaging content, showcase existing Lens AR Experiences, and share shoppable products directly within the Snapchat app - all while delivering insights for your business. Snapchatters can also subscribe to your Profile to stay up-to-date with your content, new product launches and more."
Snapchat first launched its coming brand profiles in beta last July, and while they're not as comprehensive as some other brand profile options, they do provide a more centralized space for your company within the app, which could help to boost brand connection and following, while also offering direct commerce features.
Snapchat notes that brands will also be able to access mobile and web management tools through Business Manager, while the new brand profiles will also improve discoverability.
"As soon as your Public Profile is set up, it’s instantly discoverable throughout Snapchat. Snapchatters can find your brand through Search, @ mentions, Discover, Lens Explorer and through your Snapchat Ads."
It's definitely worth considering setting up your own brand profile - you can find more info on setting up your Snapchat business profile here, while Snapchat has also provided some key best practice notes for incoming brands.
In terms of in-app design and usage, Snap's also looking to put more focus on 'scanning' with the Snap camera, in order to better highlight the various ways that its scanning tools now work.
"Today, we’re bringing the Scan button front and center, placing it right on the main camera screen of Snapchat, making it simple to find fun and informative Lenses from creators and partners. These Lenses give you the power to identify hundreds of dog breeds, more than 600,000 plants and trees, and millions of songs and products."
The hope is that by underlining these tools, that can encourage habitual discovery behavior, and eventually provide Snap with more opportunity to provide product matches based on objects scanned, along with informational cues and tips.
"We’re continually adding new categories of intelligence to Scan, like fashion and food. Screenshop gives shopping recommendations from hundreds of brands when you Scan a friend’s outfit. You can also select a photo from Memories to Scan with Screenshop. It’s like having a personal shopper right in your Camera, and it’s starting to roll out today."
Snapchat also continues to invest in AR Try-On tools, and the next stage of AR innovation for shopping, with new AR try-on experiences, like the ability to ask for items that you’re looking to browse and digitally try-on, and a new tapping gesture recognition option, "letting you signal to Snapchat when you want to check out another item or color so you can find the perfect new addition to your wardrobe".
These will all lead into the next stage of integrated commerce within the app, with new Dynamic Shopping Lenses, which include price and availability listings in-stream, enabling direct purchase direct from these AR tools.
Creator monetization is also a key focus, as the competition for the internet's top stars heats up, and Snapchat's working on new incentive offerings to provide a more sustainable creator ecosystem, long-term.
Snapchat's big leap into monetization came last November, when it launched its TikTok-like Spotlight feed.
The big lure of Spotlight is that Snapchat is also paying out $1 million per day to its top Spotlight creators, which has already seen several creators making huge amounts for their short clips.
That's helped to boost the option - as per Snap:
"Since launching Spotlight late last year, we have been thrilled to see the creativity of our community shared with an audience of millions. Spotlight is rolling out globally, and already reaches more than 125 million monthly active users. We continue to offer millions per month to reward Snapchatters for their creativity. To date, over 5,400 Creators have earned more than $130 million dollars."
The idea, then, is to facilitate monetization within the tool between creators and users, to keep that revenue flow coming for the top creators.
One new element in this approach will be gifting:
"Gifts are sent through Story Replies and make it even easier for fans to show their support for their favorite Creators, and for Creators to develop a deeper connection with their fans. When a subscriber sees a Snap they like from their favorite Snap Stars, they can use Snap Tokens to send a Gift and kick start a conversation. Snap Stars earn a share of the revenue from Gifts received through Story Replies."
The option is very much like Facebook's 'Stars' and YouTube's 'Super Stickers', which provide a more fun, engaging way to donate money. That format has proven particularly popular in China, where live-streaming is now a massive industry of its own, and the hope is that this will help Snap creators generate income from their fans in the app, gradually reducing the need for Snapchat to subsidize such payments.
Gifting through Stories will roll out to selected Snap creators later this year.
The Snap Map is also getting some new tricks, with a new 'Layers' display option that will highlight local content and information on top of the Map.
Snapchat's partnering with select partners like Ticketmaster and The Infatuation on the first stage of the project, which will bring more connective options to the Map display.
"The Ticketmaster Layer will show which concerts are coming up and who’s playing at venues nearby. It will launch directly into the new Ticketmaster Mini, where you can buy tickets to the show. Or, when you and your friends are looking for amazing eats nearby, the Infatuation’s Layer surfaces the best restaurants on the map."
That could become a big focus for local businesses, depending on your target audience, and as more Snapchat users move into more lucrative demographic brackets, it could become a key connective option, that more brands will need to note.
There was a range of other tools announced, including new Camera and Sticker Kit tools to facilitate new options for developers, a coming "Story Studio" app for making and editing professional content on mobile, and advanced AR options like 'Connected Lenses' which will enable users to interact within AR together.
These are some exciting developments, with a heap of potential, and it's worth considering where each might fit into your digital planning.
We'll keep you updated on each process and option as more info is revealed.