Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Snap is partnering with Amazon to offer an e-commerce feature that lets users take a picture of physical object or barcode through its Snapchat app and search for it online. This includes the ability to order the item through the retail giant's website.
The move comes as a growing number of companies take inspiration from trends and innovations being started by Chinese technology companies, many of which have spearheaded mobile-first strategies thanks to the country's leapfrogging of the PC era. Alibaba's shopping platforms Taobao Marketplace and Tmall have offered this feature for several years, and Amazon also implements it in its app.
Snapchat's new visual search tool, announced by the company in a blog post this week, is a bridge between the real world and Amazon's shopping platform. If Amazon recognises the item, it will provide a link that redirects Snapchat users to its site, where they can continue browsing or complete the purchase. They can also take a photo of an item's barcode, making storefronts more nervous about becoming Amazon showrooms.
The partnership will allow Amazon to encourage the use of visual search with younger shoppers and help prevent them from straying to competing online shops. It's a logical extension of the company's aim to meet users where they already spend time. It could also signal the start of a shift in user interfaces; Amazon has hundreds of millions of products on offer, so using text to search can be a cumbersome task when shoppers aren't sure how to describe the product they want. If the new feature works as promised, it should allow results to be delivered more quickly.
Snapchat's young demographic is likely to make purchases of items for which Amazon may not be their initial starting point, making this collaboration beneficial for both companies. The press release didn't offer much detail, but we assume that Snapchat would get a bounty on transactions.
The effort is part of a broader trend to incorporate smartphone cameras into e-commerce by using image-recognition technology to streamline the process of searching and shopping. Pinterest and eBay provide similar tools. Amazon also uses smartphones and augmented reality to let shoppers point their cameras at their living rooms, for example, to see how a new sofa might look in a room before buying it.
The feature from Snapchat is still in an initial launch phase, with only a small number of users in the US able to access it.