The first cell phone with a built-in camera came into being in 1999, a 0.11-megapixel accessory that would soon change the world. By 2011, when Snap was founded, the camera had emerged as a powerful selling point for smartphone manufacturers. But Snap’s founders could already visualise just how revolutionary the camera would become, building a new business model around the ‘lens’. The resulting augmented reality (AR) world Snap helped introduce to the masses – via lenses, dog-eared faces and the like – has come to define a generation.
As we enter into Snap’s second decade, the camera is no longer a smartphone add-on but a bona fide computing visual platform. By leveraging advances in the rest of the digital sphere, such as cloud computing, machine learning and 5G, the camera has emerged as a formidable tool that anyone can leverage to visually enhance their world.
Today, the average smartphone camera can scan its surroundings, intelligently overlay relevant information and immerse the user in a richer reality. Instead of just relaying a picture, the Snap camera, in particular, will recognise what it sees – food, plants, animals, cars, faces, fashion, and more – and allow users to smartly engage with the world around them through its computing power.
Research shows that Snapchatters are making full use of the technology. Snapchatters are interacting with augmented reality nearly 30 times a day. The camera, therefore, offers a ready-made audience for marketers and an unprecedented utility for businesses.
AR as a utility
Recent research by Deloitte Digital reveals that although 81 per cent of people in KSA still consider AR as a ‘toy’, they expect and desire to use it as a practical tool in their everyday lives. AR adoption is tracking the mobile usage boom of the past two decades. By 2025, almost all of the Gen Z and millennial population in Saudi Arabia alone will be frequent AR users, the Deloitte Digital report shows.
AR offers marketers something traditional video lacks: engagement. While you can ‘reach’ millions with traditional formats, retaining their attention is another story. Who amongst us has not turned away when a message pops up to interrupt our flow, twiddling our thumbs as we wait for it to pass, or ignoring it altogether?
AR is different. Users are already ‘leaned-in’. They have already chosen to interact with the medium and are 100 per cent focused. In a world where attention is waning, AR is a powerful antidote for a brand to raise awareness and immerse its target audience in its message. The technology is empowering innovative marketers and marquee brands to tell their stories in new and exciting ways. Data shows that interacting with products that have AR experiences leads to 94 per cent higher conversion rates.
End-to-end shopping experience
AR also differentiates itself from video by being a full-funnel channel. Not only can brands drive awareness, but they can experientially take the user through the buying process and convert a sale, all within the camera interface. Innovative marketers have already recognised the value of this end-to-end sales model.
Take Dior, a venerable brand that is as relevant today as it was 75 years ago. The iconic fashion powerhouse recognised the power of AR to launch its B27 sneakers in 2021. Users discovered the product range through the Snapchat carousel, ‘tried’ the shoes on, and were invited to purchase them directly through the camera. By adding AR to its media mix, Dior extracted a return on advertising spend (ROAS) of six times from the camera alone.
These commerce use cases are changing with the technology. Screenshop, for example, has leveraged the camera’s ability to recognise its environment to provide shopping recommendations in an entirely fresh yet inherently intuitive way. By simply pointing your Snap camera at your friend’s outfit or kicks, the camera can provide shopping recommendations from hundreds of brands. It’s like having a personal shopper right in your pocket.
Looking ahead into 2022, what is ultimately clear is that the Snapchat platform will continue to evolve. So will real-life advertising and commercial applications using the power of AR on the camera. With so many of our region’s users leaning in and adopting AR, no brand can afford to ignore it any longer.