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Snapchat Slides Into Social Commerce With Snap Store

Snap Inc.’s newly unveiled Snap Store launched on Feb. 1 and signals a major move into mobile app commerce as the social platform—beloved by up-and-coming Generation Z—aims for the wallets of the always-on teens and young consumers that brands covet.

Though the Snap Store currently promotes just a handful of exclusive Snapchat products, including a “Winkface” sweatshirt offered for $49.99 that channels the app logo’s signature smiley, the store’s arrival could give brands a new way to position their goods in front of consumers. It also invigorates the social commerce landscape, which is currently dominated by Facebook.

For Snap, opening a proprietary store streamlines the consumer’s app experience. Instead of forcing the consumer to exit the app and visit another retailer like Amazon for transaction purposes, now Snapchat users can act on their desire for a Dog Lens Tee ($29.99), for example, featuring the famous dog-ears filter, and buy immediately with just four clicks—all within the app, assuming payment and address details are saved. Not only does in-app commerce give Snap a new stream of revenue and potentially greater user time spent on the platform, but it also offers a seamless all-in-one experience. All of these things could make it an even more compelling destination for brand marketers and advertisers.

The Snap Store’s next product drop is planned for Feb. 8, a week after the shop’s inauguration and likely designed to keep Snap users interested and driving traffic to the store. What’s more, the Snap Store’s products may “disappear” at any time—much like snaps themselves—instilling a sense of urgency around limited-availability items.

According to Snap Inc’s 2017 IPO, the social platform has 158 million daily users who engage with the app 18 times per day on average for a length of between 25 to 30 minutes. As of 2016, 23 percent of Snapchat users were between 13 and 17 years of age. Millennials remain a valuable demographic but many brands are also looking to the retail future that Gen Z portends. Members of Gen Z were born between 1997 and 2015, represent 26 percent of the U.S. population and wield annual spending power estimated to be as much as $143 billion. In addition, younger consumers view shopping as a true 24/7 activity, unlike older generations, says RSR Research managing partner Brian Kilcourse.

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It’s likely that Snap is eyeing the success that its rival and fellow visually-driven platform Instagram has had with its foray into commerce. In 2016, Instagram first tested shoppable photo tags after a longtime third-party relationship with Like2Buy, a Curalate service that bridged the gap between product-promoting posts and a brand’s e-commerce store. Kate Spade was among the first users of shoppable tags, which encourage users to spend more time on the platform as they don’t need to click away in order to buy.

The Snap Store limited assortment seems to be a move calculated to gather data on users’ engagement with the new commerce channel before opening the digital storefront to brands. Because of the demise of traditional channels such as department stores as part of the “retail apocalypse,” many brands are seeking new avenues to reach consumers on their paths to purchase.

Though it remains to be seen how successful Snap Store will be, Kilcourse says brands should pay close attention to the technologies and innovations being introduced to tomorrow’s tech-savvy consumers.

“The incubation period for consumer adoption could take a very long time,” he said, pointing to the radio and the automobile as examples, “but once something triggers adoption, then adoption happens really quickly.”