Snapchat could be looking to add a new eCommerce element to its platform, with reports suggesting that Snap’s working on a new process which would enable users to identify and buy products by 'scanning' them through the Snapchat camera.
As reported by TechCrunch, the back-end code of the Snapchat app includes references to a new search process which would enable users to “press and hold” while using the Snapchat camera to “identify an object, song, barcode, and more”.
You can already identify music in this way via Snapchat’s integration with Shazam – press and hold in the Snap camera when a song is playing and the tool will detect the track and provide you with Apple Music and Spotify links to purchase the track.
The new process appears to be a significant extension of this, adding in object recognition, which would then highlight visually similar products on Amazon.
That process sounds a lot like Pinterest’s Lens tool, which enables users to scan in objects and find related visual matches on the platform.
Lens has been a winner for the platform – back in February, Pinterest reported that its users are now conducting more than 600 million visual searches per month, and that mobile visual searches are up more than 60%, year-over-year. Pinterest is also growing at a faster rate than both Twitter and Snapchat – that growth can’t be solely attributed to Lens, but it is a part of the app’s broader expansion and rising use case.
It looks like Snap’s now working to tap into the same, expanding its 'camera first' focus.
Really, the addition would come as little surprise – Snap’s been working on expanding its visual identification tools for years in an effort to broaden its options.
Back in 2015, Snapchat filed a patent for image recognition triggered info cards, which would enable companies to provide information linked to images taken within the app:
"For example, a photograph including an object recognized as a restaurant may result in the user being presented with photo filters that overlay a menu of the restaurant on the photograph. Or a photograph including an object recognized as a food type may result in the user being presented with photo filters that let the user view information e.g., calories, fat content, cost or other information associated with the food type."
The extension of this included ads which would be triggered by images of chosen objects, providing another potential revenue stream for the company.
And as reported by Bloomberg, Snap was also, at one point, in talks with Google about introducing a feature that would have enabled Snapchat users to perform Internet searches by simply pointing their phones at objects in the real world.
It’s a big jump, adding in object recognition is a significant leap for the app’s search capacity. But clearly, it's one that the company has been moving towards for some time. Right now, you can already utilize Snap’s image recognition tools by using its Stories search feature, which it rolled out last April - type in ‘dogs’, for example, and you’ll get a listing of publicly posted Snaps which either include the term ‘dogs’ in the attached text, or have dogs included within the frame, as identified by Snaps visual recognition tools.
It’s not perfect, but Snap has been building out its database for some time, giving it more content to learn from. Given this, you’d expect their product recognition tools might be a bit rusty at first, but like Pinterest’s Lens, they’d improve over time – while Snapchat may also have another ace up its sleeve here, through its partnership with Amazon.
Where Pinterest is able to expand its Lens tool is through its image catalog – more than 50 billion Pins have been posted to the platform, giving them a huge visual database to sort through. Amazon has more than 560 million products listed, which, while not as significant a collection as Pinterest, is product-specific, and could provide Snap’s tool with more accurate product matches, through the platform which more people are already using to make purchases.
And worth noting too, Snapchat already has a relationship established with Amazon. As noted by TechCrunch:
“Snap already sells its Spetacles v2 camera glasses on Amazon — the only place beyond its own site.”
All the signals point to this being a solid opportunity for Snapchat, and one that’s been a long time coming. And with the company now under more pressure than ever, it needs to start exploring all of its potential opportunities.
Worth considering too, if this one does come to fruition, it could present new opportunities for marketers looking to reach younger audiences.