Snapchat Moving into Search, Purchases Vurb for $110 Million
After the introduction of Instagram Stories, much of the discussion around Snapchat has centered on how the app will survive - even if it'll be able to survive - now that Facebook's making such a concerted effort to muscle in on its turf. And along those lines, the big question is "what will Snapchat do next?" How will Snapchat compete, now that Instagram - which has a larger user base and more advanced functionality, particularly in regards to search and advertising - is offering the exact same tools?
Of course, that narrative is largely premature - there's nothing to suggest that all of Snapchat's user base is suddenly going to abandon the app they've been using every day. But given the crossover audience of Instagram and Snapchat users, and the general praise for Instagram Stories thus far (even if it is a little slower to load than Snapchat's equivalent), the indicators would suggest that Snapchat's growth will be affected by the introduction of the new option. How big that impact will be, we won't know for some time yet.
But one area that Snapchat could be looking to move into as it works to keep a hold on its audience might be search. According to a report from The Information, Snapchat's finalizing a deal to acquire recommendation app Vurb for around $110 million.
Vurb describes itself as "the only search app that gives you suggestions and results tailored to what you love - and keeps you updated on trending topics you care about."
"We let you easily find, save, and do the best things by connecting community recommendations, rich content, and useful services - personalized for you in one simple app."
Considering how Vurb's functionality might fit within Snapchat, you could imagine that Vurb's database of things to see and places to visit could easily be built into Snaps - for example, Vurb has an offering called 'Vurb Cards' which provide location and review information which users can take action on from within the card - like making reservations and buying tickets in-app.
That information could be geo-loaded into Snaps, so when your friend posts a Snap of them doing something interesting or out some place you'd like to go, you'd be able to quickly and easily see exactly where it was taken and make a booking to do the same.
Vurb also has 'Vurb Decks' where users can collect their own listings of the best places to go and things to see.
Snapchat could use that to help users find more personalized recommendations for places to visit, adding context to Snaps, or even add a new recommendations element to their in-app search. For example, maybe you could enter a search for 'places to go in ***'and Snapchat could use a combination of Vurb and Snapchat data to show you where your connections recommend (including any related Snaps).
Another element of Vurb is trending news. As described by Vurb:
"Vurb's 'Today' tab keeps you in the know with a daily update of what's trending around the web, around the world, and near you. Get news, recommendations of things to do, and more - tailored for you."
Snapchat could use that functionality to build a content recommendation engine, helping users find more relevant people to follow and on-platform content, tailored specifically to their interests and behaviors.
And the last element that seems to team well with the Snapchat experience is Vurb's chat feature, where users can recommend places to go, complete with directions and reviews, within the chat window.
Snapchat recently unveiled a major overhaul of their messaging platform, and the addition of Vurb could be used to enhance their message offering even further, making it a more complete competitor for Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp (the former of which is getting more and more bots which will eventually boost its functionality).
From a monetization standpoint, Snapchat could integrate paid ads and reviews in their Vurb listings, giving businesses a chance to appear more prominently as a relevant option or improve ad targeting with geo-located services - if someone takes a Snap within a certain radius of a business, they'd be more likely to see a Vurb recommendation for that business.
It's obviously too early to tell exactly how Snapchat might approach it, but it is interesting to see the app moving into search and discovery, particularly as this has long been one of the elements that Snapchat has actively ignored in favor of exclusivity.
It's another step for Snapchat, which has done well thus far in evolving and developing their app. The threat of Facebook taking over no doubt has them considering a range of new options to keep up, but given this, and other tools Snapchat's reportedly working on, I'd expect to be seeing 'Ghosftface Chillah' and crew hanging around for some time yet.
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