Selling Stuff on Snapchat

Snapchat has always been the rebel of the social networks. With a quirky design and fearlessly ridiculousness filters, Snapchat has never played by the same rules as the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. So it may be a little surprising to see this scrappy little social network wading into the world of e-commerce. But they are, and we think that’s pretty dang cool.

Snapchat has always been a content-first platform, creating a space for users to have fun and share quirky photos and videos. Its user-centric design has made it extremely popular among a demographic coveted by advertisers the world over: 13-34 year olds.

And not only is this an audience that will age into the next purchasing powerhouse, but they are also more active and engaged than on other social platforms. This is largely because interactions with brands on Snapchat is initiated by the user rather than the brand. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, where users are served ads, Snapchat users have to intentionally click into that brand’s snap if they want to see a brand’s content. That means it’s content they actually want to see. This is great news for brands, as long as your brand is one people actually want to engage with (which is obviously not every brand, sadly.)

Who are the right brands for Snapchat e-commerce? Authenticity is key. Fashion and lifestyle brands are a particularly good fit. But Snapchat is likely not the best option for B2B or even food brands, which may be able to create compelling content, but for whom the convenience of being able to order online is outweighed by logistics or perishability.

In the past, brands like Warby Parker were able to ‘soft-sell’ on Snapchat by creating imagery featuring their iconic glasses worn by fashionable people. A user might say, ‘wow, those look nice. I would like to buy some.’ But then they would need to go outside the app to buy. Brands that have that sort of appeal will now be able to offer users a buying experience with much less friction than ever before.

How does it work? Snapchat has added deep linking, which means that when you swipe up on a brand’s content, you can be led to a custom, fully-functioning landing page within the app. So users don’t have to exit the app: Brands can use this page to sell products, drive app downloads, or get email signups. In other words, anything a normal landing page can do. Additionally, you can set up a lead-generation form that automatically populates with the user’s relevant data without any extra typing. To use this feature, users must opt-in, mitigating the creepiness factor.swipe-up-example-in-ad

What is Snapcash? Another feature Snapchat’s released is called Snapcash, and it’s designed to compete with Venmo and other mobile payment services. It’s in partnership with Square, so it’s got the security and usability of that veteran service, all within the Snapchat environment. While currently you can only pay friends with the service, it stands to reason that as e-commerce shopping opportunities grow, so will the capabilities of Snapcash. It’s not hard to imagine a time when users can shop and pay for their favorite brands without ever leaving the app.


Time will tell if this experiment plays out. Snapchat has remained blissfully (relatively) commerce-free since its inception, which is a large part of its enormous popularity. We’ll see if it can keep its appeal while becoming more overtly commercial in its offerings.

Jill Mailander



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