Snap Expands Its Horizons

Snap may be bringing its AR capabilities to the ecommerce space.

Virtual AR Mobile Phone App. Augmented Reality Furniture

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Snap has spent the past decade building AR tools for its platform. Now it’s looking to share the love. 

The company is seeking to patent tech for creating what it calls a “customized personal store.” Snap’s patent details a method for businesses to provide a “AR/VR shopping experience” where users can interact with one another, as well as shop for virtual products. 

Here’s how it works: When a user enters this experience, this system displays a VR representation of a real-world store, allowing the user to shop for products like they would in a brick-and-mortar business. If the user chooses to enter this experience with friends, it displays their virtual avatars, and pulls up a chat box to allow for conversation. 

To try on or test out a product, the system utilizes AR rather than VR, allowing a user to see how something would look on them or in their actual environment instead of just the virtual store. Snap notes that this system takes into account the conditions of the user’s actual environment to avoid distortion issues that are common with AR shopping.

Snap said in its filing that this tech solves a host of issues with the current state of AR shopping, including presentation issues and the isolated nature of conventional AR shopping techniques. “(Users) can receive and provide real time feedback and improve the overall shopping experience,” Snap said. “This avoids missed shopping and purchase opportunities and increases the overall appeal of online shopping.”

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

It’s unsurprising that Snap is continuing to hone and refine its AR shopping technology. The company has long allowed its users to try on clothing, makeup and jewelry from different brands within the confines of its app. And in March, Snap announced plans to launch AR Enterprise Services, a new business unit focused entirely on helping retailers build augmented reality shopping experiences into their own platforms. The tech in this patent could reveal some of the tools that Snap has in store for its enterprise bet.  

“Snap has actually led the way in AR and VR,” said Tierney. “Now, they’re probably one of the most well-positioned to patent this and use this enterprise technology … for fashion brands and e-commerce brands.”  

Many brands are antsy to incorporate AR experiences into their platforms for a major reason, said Tierney: the massive cost of returned products from online purchases. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers returned $212 billion worth of products from online purchases in 2022. Returns can also cost brands roughly 66% of the product’s original price. Allowing customers to at least somewhat see how a product looks in their home or on their person could minimize that rate of return, she said. 

Even with brick-and-mortar shopping bouncing back from its historic pandemic lows, AR shopping has continued to grow in popularity among consumers, said Tierney. According to a 2022 survey from Snap and Ipsos, 79% of consumers reported that they were interested in AR shopping experiences. “I hate to say it, but the consumer is lazy,” said Tierney. “If you can try on something from home, then you’re going to.” 

Let’s not forget that this could prove quite lucrative for Snap, as well. As the vast majority of its earnings come from digital advertising, which slumped in the company’s recent earnings report, extending its focus to enterprise capabilities could be a way to make up for slowing revenue growth. 

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