The Advantages of Snapchat For eCommerce

April 21, 2016 Kirsten Burkard

Since its development, Snapchat has garnered over 30 million users, with over 700 million photos and videos being sent every day.  Now, the evolution of the smartphone has prompted a dramatic increase in the amount of social and digital experiences at our fingertips; whether it’s an app, game, or social messaging system, people are constantly exploring and learning new means of communicating.

Snapchat is one of the many applications that falls into this category and is – quite frankly – one of the tricker apps from the past couple of years to understand.  If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked me “what is Snapchat?” or “how does Snapchat work?”, I would have at least 50 cents and almost enough money to buy myself a donut.


So Let’s Talk About Snapchat.

Snapchat’s humble beginnings can be traced back to 2011, when three students pitched the idea for an image messaging application to their product design class at Stanford University.  Using the camera on their smartphone, users are able to send short videos and images (also known as “Snaps”) to their friends.  The catch?  Each image or video only lasts up to ten seconds before it is permanently deleted from the recipient’s device.


“Wait, What?”

snapchat for ecommerce filter

I know, sounds ridiculous.  Let’s break it down even further.

“Snaps” are 1 to 10 second videos or photos that may be sent to one or a few friends.  Snaps disappear after viewing, but may be screen-shotted by the recipient if they want to be able to view it later.  For example, whenever my friends send me a Snap using one of the available filters that make their eyes bulge out and their forehead look huge, I screenshot it so that I can laugh about it for minutes/hours/days to come.


“I Don’t Get What This Has to Do With eCommerce.”

Stay with me, I promise this all connects.  

There are multiple ways of sending messages in Snapchat, and understanding each of these is key to understanding how to leverage it for your business.  For example, private messages can only be seen by specifically selected recipients, and only for up to ten seconds.  This type of message isn’t ideal from a marketing standpoint, as you want to be reaching all of your followers at once, right?

snapchat for ecommerce filter effects

Filters, lenses, and effects can be added to any type of Snapchat video or image message to delight (or terrify) its recipients.

Enter My Story.  When you post something to your Story, it becomes a semi-public message that can be seen by anyone you are friends with on Snapchat, and unlike private messages, messages on your Story can be viewed for 24 hours.  So if you want to communicate promotions, products, or discounts to your customers, this is a great way to reach your whole network at once.

Snapchat also offers Direct Messaging, Live (Our Story), and Discover threads.  Direct Messaging can be best thought as as disappearing-text-via-Snapchat, which is great for addressing an individual customer’s concerns or thanking a customer for sharing, referring, or trying your products. Live allows users on-location at a specific event (typically music festivals or sporting events) to contribute Snaps to one channel, creating a curated story that can be viewed by all Snapchat users.

snapchat for ecommerce discover

Last but not least is the Discover message channel, where lots of ad-supported content from major publishers is housed.  Here, users can find stuff from big names such as Buzzfeed, CNN, and People magazine, to name a few.  Discover acts as a middle ground for brands and customers, allowing users to seek out the ads they want while still giving brands prominence.  Each of the brands located in Discover have paid to be there, and it’s easy to understand why when we look at some of Snapchat’s stats.

Remember those stats I mentioned at the beginning of this post?  You know, 30 million users and over 700 million Snaps a day?  Those are some pretty impressive numbers – numbers that are made even more impressive when we consider that all of the content is time-sensitive.  In a culture that’s preoccupied with determining which products and services have the longest staying power and ensuring that everything is backed up in multiple places, Snapchat is an oddity because it simply doesn’t last.

snapchat for ecommerce user count

This disposability is an attempt to replicate and restore the organic nature of face-to-face conversations which, with the massive success of the smartphone, have largely fallen by the wayside.  The intimate, personal nature of Snaps contributes to this too, as messages become symbols of raw moments as opposed to overly glamorized, doctored images.

In an eCommerce context, this is huge.  I mean, the focus on engagement is monumental: the average user checks their account 14 times a day, and the impermanence of each message ensures that recipients are paying attention because they know the content can’t be viewed minutes, days, or hours later.  You’ve got to make every message count, but are able to create many daily opportunities to get that message out there.


Making it Count

Alright, we now understand what it is and what it’s trying to do – time to leverage Snapchat for eCommerce.  

1. Live Events

Who doesn’t love being a VIP?  Creating a stream of Snaps at product launches, trade shows, and company milestones is a fantastic way to involve your customers in your brand and connect them to your products and services.

snapchat for ecommerce live events

If you and your team are celebrating your 1,000th customer, Snapchat is a way to invite all of your customers to the party!  Exclusivity makes your content desirable, and will make your customers feel like they’re part of something special.

2. Contests, Perks, and Promotions

Everyone loves winning free stuff.  I can’t count the number of contests I’ve entered throughout my life, and even though I only have one or two wins to show for it (colouring contest, circa 1998) I still get excited about the idea of winning.  Grubhub is an excellent example of a successful Snapchat promotions campaign, as they have been known to reward their followers with promotional discounts simply for viewing their Snaps.

snapchat for ecommerce grub hub

These types of campaigns are a great opportunity for you to showcase your brand’s personality, and can present opportunities for opening up a channel for two-way communication.  Reward your customers for posting Snaps with your products or sending your company direct messages with feedback.  These types of intimate communications are rare in today’s media-saturated world, and your efforts will not go unnoticed.

3. Partner with Influencers

I know, “influencers” is such a buzz term when we’re talking about social media, but the reality is they get the job done.  Snapchat influencers are self-made online celebrities who were early adopters of the platform, and therefore understand how it works better than the average user.  Other users also trust these Snapchat celebs because they feel like they know them, and this widespread appeal can be used to promote your brand.  

snapchat for ecommerce sharing lives

Look for influencers whose personal style aligns with your company’s products and values, and get in touch with them! Invite them to events or ask them to try your products, and before you know it you’ll have secured yourself a new brand advocate (and one with a big social footprint, to boot).

4. Behind the Scenes

Much like promoting your events, sharing behind the scenes material involves your customers in your company’s processes and culture in a more saturated context.  Bring your customers into the overall process of your brand, moving them through the ideation, creation, and execution stages of your products.  

snapchat for ecommerce promote products

Why not provide teaser information about upcoming products? Or how about asking for your  customers’ input on a product you’re developing?  This will increase excitement in your buying community and keep them engaged long before your product even hits the shelves.


The Use of Snapchat in eCommerce

Above anything else, it is important to understand your marketing purpose.  In order for Snapchat to work with your brand and business, you need to understand who you’re marketing to and what you’re trying to communicate.  Once this framework has been established, Snapchat is an excellent way to network with brand advocates, positively influence interest in your products, and connect with your customers while making an immediate impact, all in ten seconds or less.

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