Snap rolls out AR tools for fashion retailers in latest commerce push

Snap is taking further steps to position itself as the go-to place for augmented reality (AR) in retail.

After years of acquiring AR and AI technologies, Snap is putting together some of its greatest tools for customers to integrate into their own websites. The deal, which Snap calls ARES (Augmented Reality Enterprise Services), is launching “Shopping Suite,” a set of try-on and measurement tools specifically geared towards retail. “Shopping Suite” currently covers three different industries: apparel, shoes and eyewear.

Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, has invested in AR for nearly a decade, introducing features like Lenses for Snapchat and Lens Studio to help artists and developers create AR experiences. According to the company, more than 250 million people engage in AR on Snapchat every day. More recently, however, Snap has expanded its AR approach to focus on commerce, something that platforms like Instagram and Amazon have also leaned on.

In recent years, Snap has allowed brands to create profiles on Snapchat, introduced AR filters tied to branded products, and developed ways for users to shop within the app. It also acquired Fit Analytics (a company with predictive sizing technology) and Vertebrae (a company with 3D product rendering capabilities) and built a branded global creative studio called Arcadia. Now, Snap is offering retailers access to its AR and AI tools on their own websites to help them increase sales and retain customers.

“The goal is to help retailers transform their consumer and shopping experience to truly drive solutions to some of the biggest challenges we keep hearing from many of our enterprise retail customers,” Carolina Arguelles, Head of AR Enterprise Product Strategy at Snap and product marketing, Modern Retail said. “Challenges like cart abandonment due to increased competition… challenges like conversions… but most importantly, reducing returns, which remains such a big challenge for retailers. Finally, we continue to help retailers offer their customers different types of experiences to make them more loyal.”

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Snap is developing its tools to target both smaller DTC companies and larger players. “We’re excited because we actually think it has incredible applications for different types of retail customers,” Arguelles said.

This is how the shopping suite works

“Shopping Suite”, ARES’ first offering, consists of several components that customers can access for a standard initial fee and additional payments. The first is AR Try-On, which allows shoppers to “try on” items like sunglasses and shirts by interacting live with a filter or by uploading a photo of themselves. The second is the “3D viewer,” which allows shoppers to move the screen to view a product, such as a shoe, from multiple angles. The third, Fit & Sizing, uses AI and feeds back data to suggest what size of clothing or shoes would be best for a given customer.

At the heart of all this is “Enterprise Manager”, a personalized backend system that allows retailers to integrate their entire product catalogue, product descriptions, size charts and product images. Snap’s AR tools then take those data points and use them to inform the other three functions. For example, after a retailer uploads the product information and photos of a particular bag, Snap can render a 3D image of that bag and feed it into the “3D Viewer”. For AR Try-On, Snap can transfer photos of a dress to images of people with multiple body types, eliminating the need for a lengthy multi-model photo shoot.

Snap hopes that customers are more likely to make a purchase when they can “try on” an item in different colors and styles, get a better idea of ​​what that product looks like in real life, and benefit from personalized sizing recommendations. By doing so, it hopes its “Shopping Suite” can help solve some big problems for businesses.

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AR has come a long way in the past few years. However, some features, like AR fitting, can still be challenging. For clothing companies in particular, it can be difficult to make it appear as if someone is actually wearing a garment rather than putting it on a model.

A business-to-business approach

Many retailers, including American Eagle and Prada, have used Snap’s AR tools to help customers “try on” and purchase items like sunglasses and sneakers. However, much of this process has so far been done in the Snapchat app. ARES allows retailers to build the same tools into their own websites and product pages, giving them a little more control over the shopping experience and user insights.

While Snap now chooses to announce ARES and “Shopping Suite,” it has been working with multiple retailers over the past three to six months to test features, Arguelles said. These include clothing company Princess Polly, eyewear retailer Goodr and cashmere brand Gobi Cashmere.

So far, Goodr has tried the AR Try-On tool and has seen a 67 percent increase in conversion rate for mobile device users, according to Snap. At Princess Polly, shoppers who bought the Fit & Sizing recommended size had a 24% lower return rate than those who didn’t use the technology.

Snap knows that AI and AR tools can be costly and wants to make the technology easier for retailers to access, Arguelles said. “Our focus was not just on what the technology can do and how do we do it in a very high quality way that looks very realistic – but how is it actually efficient enough for the retailer to integrate?” she explained .

The role of AR in shopping

Today more and more retailers are starting to integrate AR into their websites, apps and even physical stores. Apple and Ikea have used AR to test how their products would look in buyers’ homes, and companies like Ray-Ban and Nike have turned to virtual try-on to increase sales. Virtual changing rooms have also become more common in recent years.

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Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis Groupe, told Modern Retail he’s “optimistic” about use cases for AR, especially compared to the use cases of VR and the Metaverse right now. “There are many practical use cases to improve shopping experiences in AR,” he said. “So I think it’s wise for Snap to focus on practical things and sell them to people who need them.”

At the same time, Goldberg pointed out that when it comes to competing with companies like TikTok and Instagram, “it’s unclear how much this offering helps their traditional social platform,” he said. “Like people who use Amazon Web Services to host their own websites, that’s why they stop shopping on Amazon.”

At a macro level, however, Snap’s ARES program fits into the larger trend of “vendors white-labeling some of their capabilities and services to sell to other retailers,” Goldberg said. For example, Amazon offers AWS and Pay With Amazon, while Walmart has its own commerce technologies.

Kelly Pedersen, US Retail Lead at PwC, told Modern Retail that retailers are interested in investing in AR, but many of them don’t have the tools to do so. Instead, he said, “They’re looking for other companies, probably more in the tech space, that have this technology.”

Snap is confident that its ARES program will help retailers overcome major challenges while providing a better experience for customers. Even as Snap rolls out “Shopping Suite” with apparel, footwear, and eyewear verticals, it plans to expand to other verticals like jewelry, autos, and furniture. Outside of retail, Arguelles says Snap is looking to develop tool suites for sectors like education, entertainment or travel.


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