Image Credits: Denis Charlet/AFP / Getty Images
Earlier this year we reported on how Snap had acquired Berlin-based Fit Analytics, an AI-based fitting technology startup, as part of a wider push into e-commerce services, specifically to gain technology that can help prospective online shoppers get a better sense of how a particular item or size would fit them. A 10-Q filing from Snap today has now put a price tag on that deal.
Snap paid a total of $124.4 million, covering technology, IP, customer relationships and payouts to the team. The filing also noted that Snap spent a total of $204.5 million on acquisitions in 2020, but did not break them out.
The news comes ahead of Snap — whose flagship app Snapchat now has 280 million daily active users — preparing for its Snap Partner Conference in May. Sources say the company plans to announce, among other news, deeper commerce features for Snapchat — specifically tools to make it easier for Snapchat users to interact with and buy items that appear in the app, either in ads or more organically in content shared by other users.
While the exact details of those commerce tools, and the timing of when they might come online, are not yet known, Snap has hardly kept its interest in commerce a secret.
Snap has been hiring for roles to support its commerce efforts. Currently it’s advertising for a variety of engineering, marketing and product roles in commerce, to, in the words of one of the listings, for a Product Manager, “develop and launch shopping experiences and services that make shopping fun for Snapchatters and drive results for brands.” The listings also include a role specifically to work on Snapchat-based e-commerce efforts for direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses.
And it has been making other recent acquisitions in addition to Fit Analytics that also line up with that.
They have included Screenshop, an app that describes itself as “the first AI-back style lens,” which can identify shoppable items in photos and then build a custom catalog of similar products that you can buy (akin to “shop the look” features that you will have come across in fashion media). And it’s also acquired Ariel AI, which has built technology to quickly render people in 3D, technology that can be used in a diverse set of applications, from games to virtual try-ons of clothing, makeup or accessories.
Snap confirmed the Ariel acquisition to CNBC in January. And while Screenshop deal was first reported earlier this month by The Information, Snap has declined to comment on it, although we have found people who worked at the startup now working at Snap.
Both acquisitions closed in 2020, according to reports, meaning that they came out of that year’s $204.5 million acquisition run. (Snap also noted a smaller acquisition, for $7.6 million, in the most recent quarter, but it did not disclose any further details.)
Even before all this, Snap had been making smaller efforts and tests in commerce going back years, although none of them have tipped into mainstream efforts.
Among them, in 2018 it launched a Snap Store — but that so far has not progressed beyond selling merchandise based on Bitmoji characters. And work on a Gucci shoe campaign last year, where Snapchat users could try shoes on in AR and then buy them, was seen by some as its big step into commerce — “we’ve moved from pure entertainment and expanded the use-case. And so with brands, it’s a really exciting time, especially in fashion and beauty. The Snapchat camera is connecting brands to their audiences in new ways,” a Snapchat AR executive said at the time — but that also didn’t develop into much beyond a one-off effort.
But with the pandemic leading to a surge of shopping online, and technology continuing to improve, the iron may finally be hot here.
As we said around the Fit Analytics acquisition, the idea of diversifying Snapchat’s revenue streams by building in more commerce experiences makes a lot of sense.
It gives the company another revenue stream at a time when Apple is introducing changes that might well affect how advertising can run and be monetized in the future. (The company most recently posted average revenues per user of $2.74, a figure Wall Street will be hoping will grow, not shrink.) It also plays into the demographics that Snapchat targets, where younger consumers are using social media apps to discover, share and shop for goods.
And specifically in the case of fashion, building experiences to shop for items on Snapchat leans into the augmented reality, image-altering, hyper-visual technology that has become a well-known and much-used hallmark of Snapchat and its owner, self-titled “camera company” Snap.