While Some Retailers Ignore Snapchat, Others Are Killing It With Lens and Geofilter Ads

Stats show missed chances, big gains

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Attention retailers: There's a pile of missed marketing opportunities in Aisle 5 that needs to be cleaned up.

Placed, a location-based data company, arrived at unflattering findings for brick-and-mortar chains after looking at which ones were often patronized by users of Snapchat, a veritable gold mine leading into the back-to-school season. Sixty percent of the 65 most-visited merchants, Placed discovered, hadn't even bothered to launch an account on the mobile app that counts 150 million global users, many of whom belong to the coveted Gen Z and millennial demos.

Merchants "don't realize the incremental word of mouth Snapchat is creating," said Kayla Green, director of digital strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles.

"Most retailers are aware that shoppers are snapping in store, though it's probably not top of mind for most," added Chris Gilbert, senior social strategist at Kettle.

Bath & Body Works, Payless ShoeSource, Cold Stone Creamery, Trader Joe's, Jamba Juice and Domino's are notable names on Placed's list of retailers that are hugely popular with Snapchatters—but ignore marketing to them. Some of those brands seem to be waking up. Jenny Fouracre, Domino's rep, said, "[It] is one platform that we are currently looking at for opportunities."

That's likely a smart idea, considering numbers from a new Snapchat-commissioned study by MARU/VCR&C that surveyed 2,223 U.S. consumers. The research found that 47 percent of Snapchatters have sent a snap—a post in the app's parlance—to friends while in stores. Three-fourths of its users have been informed or influenced by Snapchat during a shopping trip, the study revealed. And on average, the app's devotees between 13-34 years of age spend more each month across retail categories including clothing (55 percent more), accessories (+10 percent), shoes (+36 percent) and health/beauty (+17 percent) than their non-Snapchatting peers.

Such stats support why Walmart, Macy's, Michael Kors, Foot Locker and Louis Vuitton are among the merchants already buying ads. Michael Kors' recent #NationalSunglassesDay garnered 100 million views and lifted purchase intent 2.1 times above the market norm, said Millward Brown Digital.

"[It] added a layer of relevance to a millennial- and Gen Z-heavy audience," explained Lisa Pomerantz, the retailer's svp of global communications and marketing.

Industry sources said, interestingly, that most marketers' strategies are not leaning on organic messaging like they did with Facebook circa 2012—so Snapchat seems to be a pay-to-play medium if your company isn't an earned-media wizard in the vein of Red Bull. Even in the paid-media realm, L2 recently found that merchants make up just 4 percent of Snapchat ad purchases.

"Many retailers are eager to engage their audience on Snapchat but are weary of not being able to attribute foot traffic and sales to Snapchat impressions," said Melina Ex, managing director, U.S. East Coast, at Fetch.

To Ex's point, Snapchat is still rolling out its Snapchat to Store measurement product. Until it becomes more widely available, retailers are looking at metrics other than foot traffic. For example, Men's Wearhouse got a 48 percent engagement rate, per Snapchat's data, by deploying geofilters across 18,000 high schools during prom season. Birchbox ran a geofilter for its New York store in April, repurposing creative from one of its popular box designs to push folks to its SoHo location. The geofilters may become a monthly marketing staple to drive patrons to the store, said Julia Casella, social media manager at online-focused Birchbox. "When we snap from [our store], we'll hear from followers that didn't realize we even had a store," she added.

While some results could galvanize other retailers to adopt Snapchat marketing going into the shopping-heavy second half of the year, Zach Gallagher, evp, director of digital strategy at Deutsch LA, warns them to avoid overmessaging their Gen Z and Y consumers—who will see right through it.

"No one wants to feel like they're [hearing from] a corporate shill," he said.

This story first appeared in the August 8, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.