Project Eagle Snaps into Place

Over 200 million users open up Snapchat every day to take selfies, play games, share their surroundings and augment their world. For many, it’s how they see the world, and how the rest of the world sees them. Soon enough, commerce will make its way into that equation as well. Via TechCrunch, a secret project codenamed “Eagle”, has shown up in in the code of Snapchat’s Android app and focuses primarily on visual search including a partnership with Amazon.

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We’re not entirely sure how the service will eventually work, but one can imagine that through the camera, users will be shown context specific information about their surroundings. Think Googles Lens but through social media.

This is a big step for Snapchat, which markets itself as a camera company, and could allow them to bring in revenue through additional sources. There’s sure to be some sort of affiliate deal in place with Amazon as well as updated advertising products to take advantage of these new capabilities.

What this also does is enhance the future functionality of Snap’s Spectacles. As the general public slowly but surely tosses aside their mobile phones for some sort of eyewear or visual product – the company in control will have an enormous opportunity to profit off of users surroundings. By integrating visual search into mobile cameras of today, Snap is setting itself up to be the Augmented Reality leader of tomorrow.

Implications

The mobile camera is the window into a users world. As hardware has evolved and gotten cheaper, the software that runs on it has paved the way for frictionless experiences to occur. That’s exactly what Snap is attempting to accomplish here. A frictionless shopping experience that’s triggered by what users see in the real world, what a friend sends them, or what they view on the platform within other channels.

For brands and marketers, it will be important to keep an eye on this feature to determine how best to set their products (or services for that matter) up for success. Snap’s Context Cards, which show information on businesses, allow for restaurant reservations, ride-sharing and more will likely become an increasingly important vehicle for engagement as commerce is brought into the picture.

As is the case with popular Snapchat innovations, be on the lookout for a similar Instagram clone in the coming months.

From Feeds to Stories

In its essence, social media is merely a window into someone else’s life – their hobbies, adventures, beliefs, friends and family. Over the past decade, social media companies have worked to expand that window as much as possible, giving users a more holistic view. What we’ve landed on, thanks in part to Snapchat, is the story feature – a comprehensive view of an individuals or businesses life at all points in time.tumblr_inline_p8didlS0u71uk4gsu_540.jpg

Since 2016, the creation and consumption of stories is up 842 percent, according to consulting firm Block Party. This is due in part to a broader movement of turning the camera into a platform, a trend we’ve been following for quite a while now. The camera is an entry point into a users virtual world and advancements in technology have allowed us to empower consumers with tools to better capture, create and share that world.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are all heavily invested in Augmented Reality tools, allowing people to enhance their experiences, aid in commerce, entertain and inform. We’re also slowly seeing the integration of more and more real-time data into these experiences, enabling more live sharing and contextual content creation.

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Instagram recently announced third party integration support for stories, allowing users on Spotify and GoPro to quickly share a song or video footage. While currently constrained to those two partners, we’re sure to see more services jump on, which will eventually give users an even easier way to post what they’re currently doing to their stories. In time, trend setting Millenials may not even have to take a picture of their Insta worthy brunch – they’ll simply press a button on their table, and it’s uploaded for them.

Implications

All the major social media companies have ad products designed specifically for stories, and if that’s where the majority of eyeballs are at, it’s also where your product or service should be. However, integrating with stories is not simply about disrupting a consumers content reel, but rather providing them with a value that can help to enhance what they’re currently doing. Are you giving them tools to create? Offering compelling content to consume? Or are you simply asking them to swipe up to unlock a special offer?

The augmented reality tools available for marketers to create content for these platforms offer a new way to interact with consumers. We’re currently undergoing a shift in media consumption, it’s no longer about simply pushing content, but rather enabling creativity for the end user. Brands that are able to provide consumers with experiences that empower them to create and share will end up seeing longer engagement and more return visitors, than those who simply aim for passive viewing.

Additionally, and even more importantly, how are you telling your own story? Your brands Instagram and Snapchat feed may be the one place that you can confidently reach millions of consumers at all points in time with a consistent message. It’s incredibly important to ensure that message is relevant, timely, and paints a picture of how you want your brand perceived. It’s always best to answer these questions with the end consumer in mind, and how you’re providing value to them.

Snap’s New Offerings Lead to a Shared Augmented Reality

This was a big week for Snap, as three new product offerings hit the market.

• Shoppable AR – A new media product that allows for seamless transition from discovery to purchase.
• Snappable Games – A new way for users to interact on the app.
• Spectacles V2 – A new way for users to create and upload content to the app.

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But what does it all mean?

Snap wants to brand itself as a camera company, but that’s still not entirely true. Sure, Spectacles have cameras on them, and they sell them as hardware, but they’re still not a camera company. They’re a social media platform that heavily utilizes cameras.

Which is great, because the camera is rapidly becoming the next home screen. It’s the first thing you see when you open the app and it’s the window into the virtual world that Snap is iteratively building. Shoppable AR and Snappable Games bring a new form factor to this virtual world. It’s a step up to the augmented art installations that were made popular late last year.

Those virtual works of art brought people together in AR. Now, brands are able to bring consumers together through their products, and games will bring users together through competition and network effects. If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s that users will certainly get competitive with their high scores. (Eyebrow controlled Galaga anyone?)

Spectacles V2 are a slight upgrade to its predecessor, but nothing game changing. You can take pictures now and they feel a bit slimmer – cool. What’s really going on is that Snap is getting the general public comfortable with wearing a camera on their face. The biggest update to these glasses is actually something they took away, and that’s the yellow ring around the camera. While there’s still a white LED light that turns on when recording, it’s much less noticeable. It will be interesting to see if there’s any consumer push back around this slightly more clandestine approach to capturing images and photos.

Industry pundits have long argued that socially acceptable AR glasses are going to be a game changer in many areas, but those aren’t going to be here for another 5-10 years. Until then, Snap’s taking the long approach. They’re creating the building blocks for users to hangout in an augmented world.

While this may occur through our smartphones now, that same interaction will feel eerily personal in the next decade.

Implications

If Snap is laying the groundwork for a shared augmented world, then brands need to be able to sell in that world as well. Today’s Shoppable AR products are a perfect foray into this space, as you’re able to create compelling 3D animations of your product or event, and use that as a testing ground for how users interact with them.

When you look at it from a big picture standpoint, it’s all about reducing the friction from discovery to purchase and allowing consumers to get a feel for your product or brand before they have to open up their wallets. By doing so, you’ll make the latter part of that equation a lot less stressful for them.

Snapchat Launches Shoppable AR

Over the past year, Snapchat has made tremendous strides to open up its platform to third-party developers and creators. They’ve opened up Lens Studio, to drastically bring down the cost of creating AR filters and lenses and launched the Official Creator Program, to partner and support quality creators. These changes have also meant that the barrier to entry for brands has drastically decreased. What used to be a six figure investment, can now be done for much much less.

The next logical step was to reduce the friction between discovery and purchase, and that’s exactly what they came out with today. Their new feature is called Shoppable AR, and it’s only the start of what will become a massive trend. Brands can now add a button to a lens or filter, that takes them to a website where they can learn more or simply buy the product. All of this happens inside the app.

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A few major brands like Adidas, Candy Crush and Clairol will be the first to test out the feature, but expect more to follow suit. Augmented Reality allows users to get a better sense of what a product looks like in their surroundings and how they can interact with it – further closing the gap between the physical and digital world. By consolidating the discovery and purchase phase of a consumer decision journey, Snap hopes to be a one stop show for brands and consumers alike.

Implications

With Facebook taking hit after hit around privacy issues over the last few weeks, and the general public starting to become more knowledgeable around the issue, it’s a perfect time for an ephemeral messaging service like Snap to make a big push. While Snap certainly acts off of third party data to target users, there seems to be more trust with users on the platform.

It will be interesting to see how marketers leverage this new feature in their social strategies. Brands will likely leverage the platform for more new product launches, event promotions, and sales. AR is a great way to show product features and benefits, vs simply telling – doing so will increase consideration among consumes. The ability to then track those conversions and see an actual ROI is what makes this new feature so attractive for advertisers.

Just as we’ve seen in the past, look for Instagram to respond by one upping their in-app commerce capabilities in the coming weeks.

Apple’s Business Chat is Another Blow to Facebook

Late last week, Apple revealed that they were beginning to test its’ Business Chat feature for a few companies across the U.S. Apple’s Business Chat works similar to Facebook Messenger in that it allows consumers to chat with businesses in a familiar messaging format. At a time where a select few features are keeping users on the Facebook platform, Apple’s release is surely not a welcome one for the social networking giant.

 

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To begin, Business Chat will feature only a select few companies – including Apple, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, 1-800-Flowers and a few others. A number of industries are represented on this list, which should serve as good case studies for designing future interactions. These blueprints will be needed because as far as user experience goes, Business Chat differs a bit from some of the messaging offerings that came before it.

No where in Apple’s verbiage do they describe these services as a chatbot, a major difference to platforms like Facebook, Slack, SMS, Kik, etc. Instead, Apple wants you to believe there’s a real person behind the conversation at all times.

For this reason, not everyone can go into a basic chatbot builder and deploy their experience to Business Chat. In order to use it, businesses must integrate one of several approved customer service platforms. This is a smart move on Apple’s part. Consumers are going to want quick and easy customer service and straightforward ecommerce abilities – allowing consumers to quickly checkout with Apple Pay. Apple aims to cut out all the clutter of previous chat experiences by going with this route. They also understand that these conversations are going to live right next to your ongoing conversations, with, you guessed it, real people. So keep it familiar.

In order to get into one of these Business Chat experiences, consumers can access them through a companies organic digital presence, from Apple Maps listings, spotlight search, and through siri search results. The conversation however, must take place through Messages.

Implications

Business Chat is going to be a seamless way to reach and interact with consumers at scale. Apple is allowing businesses to reach their consumers at a place that they visit 10s if not hundreds of times a day, their Messages app. If your business currently uses one of the approved customer service platforms (including LivePerson, SalesForce, Nuance, Genesys, ZenDesk, and inTheChat) it’s well worth it to sign up for the beta program and begin the process of getting your Business Chat identity.

Additionally, it would make sense that Apple could use Business Chat as it’s avenue towards bringing third party services into its Siri platform. While Siri can only discover these businesses now, it would make sense that she’ll soon be able to be used as an interaction point as well. Amazon and Google opened up their platform to third party services and have been acquiring users left and right. Meanwhile, Siri has suffered and Apple has continued with its closed doors policy. Business Chat could be the avenue in, and if and when they do allow for those types of interactions, it will be incredibly important for advertisers to have their infrastructure in place.

 

Barstool Sports and the new-age Digital Blueprint

“Saturdays are for the Boys,” a phrase made popular by Barstool Sports personalities and their ravenous following, is a culmination of what a modern age digital strategy represents. Barstool Sports, by the common man – for the common man, is a popular sports and entertainment blog that has redefined the hub & spoke model associated with content marketing. It has also laid out a unique blueprint for how traditional companies can interact with their digital savvy consumers and most importantly, grow the community around their brand.

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The past five years has brought with it a paradigm shift in how the average person will consume information. This shift started with the proliferation of mobile devices and was accelerated by the rise in popularity of major platforms accessed on them. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc. have all played a role in the way brands interact with their audiences. What Barstool did was leverage these platforms to create a massive community around its brand, pushing out content, interacting with fans, integrating advertisers and selling merchandise. While much work was put into creating the brand, it only took a few short years to go from a niche sports blog, to a $100 million plus company.

In July 2016, Erika Nardini, a long time exec at companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL, joined Barstool as their new CEO. Commenting later on the decision, she exclaimed that “[founder] Dave Portnoy created a brand for consumers, and all he ever cared about – and all anyone whoever came to Barstool cared about – was how they connected with their crew”. They are able to reach consumers at all points of their digital lives as well as successfully bridging the gap between physical and digital experiences. It’s not just pushing content either, it’s relevant timely pieces that resonate with a large audience.

Redefining Influencer

The traditional hub and spoke method of content marketing has relied on a single hub, say an app or a website, with spokes that are designed to draw consumers to the hub. Barstool has redefined this method by utilizing traditional spokes to add value and create a community, while not solely focusing on driving to the hub. Take Facebook Live for example. The brand went head first into the platform, streaming 5+ times a week when it originally came out. They received hundreds of thousands of viewers for segments that included intern talent-shows, mock press conferences and even employees simply watching sporting events. It was entertaining content, but the community that was building around it was where the real value was to be had.

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The secret is in how each of these spokes operates. Every personality, from Big Cat (pictured) and KFC to newer additions like Liz Gonzalez, are essentially their own brand – their own spoke, complete with their own social media following and influencer status. Whether they’re a celebrity, topical, or local influencer, the content feels different but ultimately falls under the Barstool umbrella. These guys (and girls) are now able to use the Barstool platform to be influencers via their own brand attached to the company. Each one creates their own sub communities of fans, who ultimately, regardless of if they listen to one podcast or subscribe to another blogger, share the same sense of belonging under the overall Barstool umbrella.

As the company continues to grow, this community will latch on to the various podcasts, radio shows, blogs, video content and more that are produced on a daily basis. All the while growing outside of the space through their various social media channels. When negativity faces the company, as it does quite a bit in an era of Twitter PC police, ‘stoolies’ the term given to this community of fans – are there to shed light on the company in a positive way. It’s almost as if this fan base feels like they’re part of the growth. Like they can actively participate in the rise of the company, and take pride in doing so. It’s not just an army of fans, it’s an army of employees, doing their bidding in return for quality content.

Implications

While many of the behemoth entertainment companies refuse to acknowledge Barstools existence, it’s clear that they should try and take a play out of their book of tricks. By simply giving people quality content, at opportune places, Barstool Sports has garnished millions of followers and sold millions more in ad-revenue and merchandise. If the likes of ESPN (which discontinued a Barstool TV show after one episode), don’t want to pay attention, startups will.

Overtime, a network focused on creating sports content geared toward a younger audience –with an emphasis on storytelling of up-and-coming stars, seems to be learning a thing or two from Barstools blueprint. They realized that high school sports stars, of which have their own massive social media followings, didn’t have a single platform to be discovered. So they’ve integrated user generated content with that of these rising personalities, and created a place where a community can spread. Ultimately, Overtime followed the same Barstool blueprint, but instead of allowing bloggers to use their platform for influencer status, they’ve targeted high school athletes.

Now, Overtime has millions of views on its YouTube channels and a growing fan base of younger generation sports fans, that are going to keep interacting with each other through the various spokes. They’ve recently secured almost $10 million in funding and had the likes of Kevin Durant (among others) join on as investors. The sky is the limit.

What’s the ultimate take away for marketers looking to get this type of exposure for their brands? It’s no longer solely about the content you put out, but rather the interactions that your fans have, the community you’re able to build, and the sense of pride they get from belonging to your brand.