Snapchat’s Ecommerce Strategy Hit a New High When It Sold Out the New Air Jordans in Minutes

NBA All-Star Game campaign showcased app's shopping capabilities

Snapchat's first augmented reality, ecommerce experience centered around the Air Jordan III Tinker. Snapchat
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Snapchat’s latest viral lens didn’t include a puppy face or a dancing hot dog. Instead, it focused on a life-size Michael Jordan augmented-reality lens promoting the new, unreleased Air Jordan III Tinker sneakers, which went on sale exclusively via a special QR code within the app.

The stunt, which Snapchat pulled off over the NBA All-Star Game weekend in partnership with Shopify, Darkstore and R/GA, demonstrated how augmented reality, ecommerce and old-fashioned hype for a sneaker could come together to present a whole new shopping experience.

What we launched with Snapchat and the Jordan Brand was a preview of what will become a paradigm,” said Lee Hnetinka, CEO of Darkstore. “Imagine an ad on a bus stop with a Snapcode or a Snapcode on an advertisement or next to a product in a store, and it is delivered within hours. That’s what Snapchat [and] Darkstore enables.”

So, how did it all work exactly? Snapchat users around the Staples Center Sunday in Los Angeles, where the NBA All-Star Game was taking place, saw a special 3-D AR world lens of Jordan circa 1988, taking off from the free-throw line in the slam dunk contest. Users could then walk around the world lens to check out Jordan and tap to see him change into this year’s All-Star uniform along with the new AJ III Tinkers (coming out officially in March).

Later, at a Jordan brand special event, Snapchat revealed the QR code users could scan, take into the Snap Store powered by Shopify and buy the sneakers. Users could also receive the shoes in less than two hours, thanks to Darkstore, a company that specializes in offering ecommerce companies same-day delivery.

The sneakers sold out in 23 minutes—Darkstore and Nike declined to share how many were sold—and the special world lens averaged more than 80 seconds of play time per user, compared with a national average play time of 15 to 20 seconds for sponsored lenses.

“What I love so much about [the world lens] and about ad products in general and AR, is it marries the ability to drive business impact in a way that’s insanely engaging and innovating,” said Jeff Miller, global head of creative strategy at Snapchat.

The entire campaign, which showcased the potential ecommerce capabilities of Snapchat, started coming together in December, when R/GA set out to create “an unexpected experience” for fans of the Jordan brand.

“Integrating ecommerce into the Snapchat experience with a brand like Jordan and the demand and attention that comes along with that opens an opportunity for Snapchat to partner with other brands to deliver a new way of accessing and purchasing products,” said Ben Williams, vp executive creative director at R/GA.

Shopify’s vp of product, Satish Kanwar, said the partnership is an example of how online and offline shopping continue to merge.

“Social commerce and unique shopping activations are new ways to reach more customers and will continue to be an investment area for a lot of retailers and brands alike,” Kanwar said.

The campaign also shows there’s still room for growth in the ecommerce space, apart from Amazon.

“Snap’s willingness to prove there is a meaningful, native approach on their platform is both welcomed and exciting,” said Justin Marshall, vp of emerging platforms at Possible. “It also proves innovation in connected commerce more broadly is still in its infancy, and if brands aren’t investing in transforming how media activation and commerce intersect, they will be left behind.”

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.