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E-Commerce Retailers: Time to Join Snapchat? Answer These Questions First

Dave LeDonne

Though Snapchat specializes in vanishing images, the app has displayed some serious staying power. Founded in 2011, Snapchat now boasts 150 million daily active users, and reportedly has an IPO planned for later this year.

While this news has investors salivating, retailers’ feelings towards Snapchat are a tad more reserved. Despite its explosive growth, only 47% of retailers currently use Snapchat, compared to 92% using Instagram.

But Snapchat recently overtook Twitter as the second most popular social network, and more e-commerce marketers are starting to pay attention. Considering taking your e-commerce brand Snap-happy? First, answer a few critical questions: 

Who are your customers?

According to Statista, 86% of the app’s users are 13 to 34 years old, while only 2% of users are 55+ years old. Because the app is available only for smartphones (not to mention, confusing for non-digital natives), it’s no surprise that it skews young.

If your customers fit this demographic profile, then they are probably Snapping away as you read this …  

Snapchat claims to reach 41% of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S every day. 

In fact, according to a study commissioned by Snapchat, it reaches 41% of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S every day. This level of penetration makes joining the party worth it for retailers targeting younger, tech-savvy shoppers. But if your target market is older, then it’s probably not the best avenue. 

Is an enthusiastic following important to you?

Something to keep in mind about Snapchat: Unlike Facebook or Instagram, where users can follow your properties with a quick click or tap, Snapchat offers no in-app discovery or recommendation engine; would-be followers must seek you out by name. This makes building an audience difficult, a lamentable fact for entrants to the Snap-iverse.

The upside? Once you’ve added a user, he or she will see all of your updates.

This leads us to another key Snapchat question: Is amassing legions of die-hard fans so important for your brand that it’s worth the effort? For many retailers, particularly in the lifestyle or apparel worlds, an enthusiastic following is crucial to long-term success.

Snapchat offers no in-app discovery or recommendation engine; would-be followers must seek you out by name.

Sound like you? Then the hard work it takes to build an audience can provide a serious payoff. The 25 to 30 minutes the average Snapper spends using the app delivers ample time to deepen connections with your best shoppers.

Must you measure everything?

Snapchat eschews the analytics and engagement tracking typical of other social media platforms, in favor of a measurement system more akin to traditional media.

Instead of engagement stats such as likes, clicks, shares, retweets, etc., Snapchat’s metrics yield insights on post reach. Follower count and unique views of an update are the most common means of tracking success for marketers active on the network.

There’s a lot less granularity on Snapchat than e-commerce professionals have come to expect from digital channels. Some marketers may bristle at not being able to measure all the minutiae of their Snapchat activities. So if you’re considering joining Snapchat, it’s important to come to terms with this reality from the outset.

Remember: When adopting any new technology, measurement is sometimes not quite there.

The right stats could be hard to come by. Moreover, you might not even know what stats you want. Trusting that a devoted Snapchat audience will serve you well long-term should help you look beyond its analytics gaps today.

Are you comfortable being early?

Like its users, Snapchat is young. While Snapchat’s technology is as good as any, its offerings for e-commerce marketers remain scant.

We’ve chronicled new, retail-specific commerce features other social networks have introduced recently. The common thread running through all of these additions is the devotion social networks share to delivering tools to tailored retail advertisers. 

Looking back at the e-commerce world over the last decade, there are several examples of retail businesses that rode the nascent social network of the day to prosperity.

As it matures, Snapchat will almost assuredly follow its peers and introduce new features directed at retailers. Until then, however, e-commerce retailers using Snapchat will be left with the same feature sets as advertisers from other verticals.

Before jumping in, you need to do some soul-searching and ask whether you’re good with growing with a technology, rather than waiting for it to develop retail-specific functionalities.

On the flipside of the coin is the inherent advantage of being a first mover in a hot new space. With less than half of all retailers currently active on Snapchat, there’s less competition for eyeballs.

If history is any guide… 

Looking back at the e-commerce world over the last decade, there are several examples of retail businesses that rode the nascent social network of the day to prosperity.

YouTube. Facebook. Instagram. Heck, even LinkedIn. Each one has birthed a handful of successful retail businesses that saw the technology’s potential and crafted a strategy to match its unique contours.

We’ve certainly witnessed this phenomenon firsthand with Google Shopping.

Snapchat should be no different; it will likely catapult a few otherwise-unknown retailers to new heights. That means e-commerce marketers targeting millennial consumers, who are willing to apply the elbow grease required to build an audience and parse meaning from limited performance metrics, should get started now.

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