After persistent rumours, one of Snapchat’s board members finally confirmed what industry insiders have been arguing about for months – Snapchat is developing its own ecommerce platform.
Speaking at a Re/code conference earlier this week, Joanna Coles, the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan and a member of Snapchat’s board of directors, revealed: “Sweet is a channel on Snapchat that Hearst and Snapchat have done together, but at some point that will morph into an ecommerce platform so you will be able to buy from it.”
She added, however, that the technology is not “quite [there] yet for how we would like to do it.”
The move is part of a wider trend, which sees social platforms monetising their services. Facebook is one the biggest and most successful players in the market. In October last year, it unveiled a new host of ad features that further explore ecommerce by launching a dedicated shopping section.
Instagram, meanwhile, opened up its global advertising platform in September followed by a new targeting segment for advertisers, which allowed brands to reach people who were highly engaged with content related to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas purchases.
In a bid to battle stalling user growth, Twitter has also hired a head of commerce and hinted the launch of ‘Twitter Moments’ in December, which gives brands the opportunity to sponsor curated content by the social platform, could develop into more of an ecommerce variant.
Moving towards money
Snapchat’s venture into ecommerce won’t be surprising to some. In 2014, it launched its ‘Snapcash’ payment feature, which enables users to send and receive money through the app.
It also rolled out its ‘Discovery’ platform in January last year, which allows users to explore stories from different editorial teams. So far, Cosmopolitan, Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable and MTV are all signed up to the service.
As a result, a move from content to ecommerce could be the next sensible step and provide the video messaging app with an opportunity to attract a wider range of brands.
“Currently the Discovery functionality really only appeals to publishers looking to distribute its content,” explained Darren Struwig, senior strategist at Born Social.
“The integration of an ecommerce platform would open up a world of opportunities for brands looking to reach the Generation Y consumer. But it’s not necessarily a move away from its core appeal, as the peer-to-peer messaging would remain the same.”
Keeping it light
There are some challenges, however, if Snapchat wants to succeed. According to Dan Moseley, senior account manager at social media agency We Are Social, the platform’s playful tone might make it difficult to keep customers engaged.
“The beauty of Snapchat is that customers aren’t forced to engage with the platform after they send or receive a picture or video – it’s a one-step interaction platform. One of the big challenges is that it will have to make all the subsequent interactions entertaining if it wants to keep people engaged,” he explained.
The platform’s functionality might also make it more challenging for brands to show off their products and put audiences in a ‘buying’ mood.
“Consumers tend to go to Snapchat to have a transient entertaining moment and might not be in a mindset to go shopping.”
Dan Moseley, senior account manager, We Are Social
“I’m assuming that most product videos will have a 10- to-15-second limit. Current buying behaviour seems to be based around bookmarking products consumers like and having some time to think about it. If they can get a younger generation to spend money immediately and make it quick and entertaining, then that could be really exciting.”
An eagerness to experiment
Despite the obvious challenges, Snapchat seems to have laid its groundwork to make future endeavours a success. In November last year, the company revealed that it now gets 6 billion video views every day, with 8,796 disappearing photos sent by its 100 million users every second.
Its ‘Discovery’ feature has also been particularly successful; Buzzfeed estimated that 21% of its site traffic now originates from Snapchat content views, while Mashable’s CEO reported that the brand’s total unique views grew by 24% in the month following its Snapchat launch.
We Are Social’s Moseley concluded: “[Snapchat] has proven itself to be open to testing and to see what’s working, while staying focused on being entertaining. If it can keep the shopping experience fun and entertaining, it might just convince millennials to spend their money.”