Social Media

What Does Snapchat Mean for Ecommerce?

Snapchat has been one of the biggest social media breakthroughs of the last year. With limited web presence, this mobile-only messaging app focuses on personal and time-limited content. Snapchat’s private and temporary method of communication has rapidly gained popularity with teenagers and those in their early twenties — as those demographics are turning away from Facebook. The question is now whether this is a platform that can be used by businesses, and if so, how?

Companies have begun experimenting with the platform, from sending private messages to creating “stories” to share with their Snapchat following. It’s early days for brands trying to access this growing young audience and there are challenges that come with early adoption.


  • Snapchat is a visual platform. Unlike Instagram, there is no ability in Snapchat to add text alongside your image. There is no space for links. In fact, the only way to add text is by using the doodle tool over your image, or by typing over your image.
  • Editing is limited. Snapchat has no access to photos taken previously; you have to compose your image carefully inside the app. Editing is restricted to drawing and writing on top of your image. There is no cropping function or beautifying filters to be found here.
  • Findability is extremely limited. Users choose to follow you. There is no proper search functionality so they need to know your user name. These are two huge stumbling blocks when it comes to building an audience.
  • Metrics are virtually nonexistent. This makes calculating return on investment extremely difficult, and as a consequence makes it a harder to justify allocating resources.

Rewards of Snapchat

All of this makes Snapchat a difficult platform to tackle. But those who succeed open the door to an elusive market: young, affluent, and tired of Facebook.

  • 18 percent of iPhone owners use Snapchat.
  • 26 million active Snapchat users in the U.S.
  • 400 million snaps are sent every day.
  • The majority of Snapchat users are between 13 and 22 years old.
  • Women comprise 70 percent of Snapchat users.

The Plus Points

  • Urgency. The temporary nature of Snapchat means that all snaps have a sense of urgency, a powerful addition to your marketing messages. Snaps force a quick decision with a “do it now or miss out” mentality. In practice this means a user has seconds to scribble down your discount code or take a screenshot of your voucher, building the sense of worth and exclusivity in your communications.
  • Stories. Stories are a relatively new addition to Snapchat’s features. This function allows you to curate a series of photos into one “story” that you can then share with all of your Snapchat friends simultaneously, rather than as individual messages. Stories also have a longer life, with the ability to view multiple times over 24 hours, versus the standard 10 seconds or less of a normal snap.
  • Metrics. There is no equivalent to Facebook Insights for Snapchat, but there are some key performance indicators you can record, albeit manually.
    • Number of friends.
    • Number of screenshots taken.
    • Number of replies or inbound messages.
    • Open rates for your messages.

Snapchat doesn’t make keeping track of your stats easy; you have to record everything.

5 Early Adopters

HBO. HBO used Snapchat to build momentum and send out reminders for the new season of Girls. HBO sent out fun, behind-the-scenes snaps to build the relationship with its Snapchat fans.

HBO 'Girls' Snapchat

HBO “Girls'” Snapchat.

McDonalds. McDonalds took to Snapchat to launch a new product and share exclusive content with its core customers. McDonalds gave followers an exclusive preview of a new star-studded commercial by using the stories feature and promoted its new Snapchat presence across its existing social media channels, including this tweet, below — @McDonalds, February 22, 2014.

McDonalds on Snapchat

McDonalds on Snapchat.

Audi. Audi took to Snapchat as part of its 2014 Super Bowl strategy. Audi took a step back from the overtly promotional messages and instead partnered with satirical site The Onion to provide humorous snaps throughout the day of the Super Bowl. This tied into Audi’s “social media war room” and “stay uncompromised” campaigns. This video — Audi Snapchat on Super Bowl Sunday from Huge  — explains how Audi went about creating the snaps and the impact of the campaign.

Taco Bell. Taco Bell was one of the first brands to engage on Snapchat. It also used Snapchat to make exclusive announcements, with an emphasis on building personal relationships, all of which helped build excitement around the brand.

Snapchat Taco Bell

Snapchat Taco Bell

Here’s the tweet from Taco Bell — @TacoBell, May 1, 2013 — providing the Snapchat embed code.

16 Handles. It’s not just big brands that are testing Snapchat. New York-based frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles has led the way for small business engagement. One of its key promotions involved asking users to send in snaps of them enjoying 16 Handles products in return for a discount code. Here’s 16 Handles tweet — @16Handles, January 10, 2013 — announcing the promotion.

Samantha Collier
Samantha Collier
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