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How Snapchat removes the last online shopping obstacle with augmented reality

By Sylvana Lijbaart


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Image: Unsplash

There are only a few barriers left when it comes to online shopping: you don't have to leave the house, it can be done at any time of the day and orders can be delivered the next day (sometimes even the same day). But, what about items like sunglasses and makeup? Currently, consumers seem to prefer to go to the store for those. Communication app Snapchat, however, wants to make online shopping even easier through augmented reality (AR). Through an invitation, FashionUnited visited the event 'Snap AR Fashion & Beauty Experience' and dove into the digital - or at least real - world.

AR is a technology that projects a computer-generated image over an image in the real world, and Snapchat has been using it for years. What started as humorous filters has now started to play a serious role in the fashion and beauty industry, with major companies such as Adidas, Dior, Nike and Prada already using it. Through the technology, Snapchat tries to emulate an offline shopping experience by letting consumers try on products virtually.

In Amsterdam’s Hallen Studios, where the event was located, various fashion and make-up stands displayed a yellow sign with a ‘Snap’ code. Comparable to a QR code, the small icon must be scanned with the snapchat camera, where an item will appear on the screen as a filter. Whether it is a jacket, bag, pants, shoe or watch, it is projected onto the consumer's body as it should look in reality.

The snapcodes must be scanned to obtain an AR filter. Image: FashionUnited

The feature is linked to three technological innovations of the snapchat camera; world object scale, body mesh enhancement and ray tracing. 'World object scale' ensures that the object can be seen in real size, while 'body mesh enhancement' adapts an object to the body of the consumer. 'Ray tracing' adds light and shadow effects so that the object can be regarded as 'real'. In this way, an image of the item is simulated as realistically as possible.

Snapchat mimics offline shopping experience with Augmented Reality

A particular item where there was almost no difference between AR and reality at the event was a red Puma sneaker. Even the white details on the nose of the shoe and the pattern of the sole were included in the AR version. When a consumer has virtually tried on the product and is convinced of a purchase, they can be forwarded to the webshop via the filter. The consumer is shown the virtually appropriate item and can place an order. With this, Snapchat wants to reduce the number of returns and thus reduce the impact on the environment.

The red Puma sneaker with the snapcode. Image: FashionUnited

“About 66 percent of consumers in the Netherlands say they return less, because they have already seen the product 'in real life'. Consumers see where they stand, creating more certainty about the purchase,” said Toccara Baker, Product Marketing Manager at Snapchat EMEA. A disadvantage of a virtual fitting session is that the consumer does not (yet) receive a size suggestion. As a result, a consumer may be inclined to order different sizes, so that a return is not excluded.

Snapchat partners with fashion and make-up brands that want to provide consumers with a unique, playful online shopping experience. “When a brand wants to work with us, we talk about the ideas they have and see if that aligns with Snapchat's vision. Companies must be open to creating lenses and filters that are unique. For example, Nike has created a filter that shows how to adopt a correct squat position while the consumer tries on a pair of sports tights,” Baker noted. The snapchat filters and lenses give brands the opportunity to build an advertising platform that encourages consumers to make a purchase. “And it works,” Baker added, “94 percent of the brands we work with see consumers placing an order faster.”

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.

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