Snapchat is not an easy app to crack for brands and publishers looking to incorporate it into their digital sales strategies. It’s not as beautifully curated as Instagram, as easy to attract followers as Twitter, or as seamlessly shareable as Facebook.
But there’s always a hack.
PopSugar’s CEO Brian Sugar thinks he’s found one that could open the door to commerce on Snapchat and finally introduce a way to make money through the app. Sugar built an e-commerce app, called Emoticode, a companion app to Snapchat that taps into a core social action taken by Snapchat users: the screenshot.
Emoticode makes it easy for bloggers and brands to include links to products in their Snapchat stories that their fans can screenshot and save for later. PopSugar owns ShopStyle, a platform for thousands of beauty, fashion and retail bloggers, who will be the first to use these links to monetize their Snapchat content. PopSugar will put emoticodes in its Snapchat stories, Sugar said; brands including Uniqlo, Nordstrom and Sephora are among the launch partners.
“It was clear that people wanted to take action from our snaps and it wasn’t as easy as it could be. The lightbulb went off,” Sugar said. “It works for shopping. It will work for recipes, workouts, articles, really anything you want to engage more with beyond a snap or an Instagram post.”
Publishers like PopSugar have been trying to find ways to capitalize on the growing popularity of Snapchat, which has left sponsorship and branded content rules vague. Some advertisers pay popular Snapchat users to mention them, and others run their own channels. Snapchat has yet to introduce more structured brand integrations, except for paid ads.
The emoticode app is effectively an affiliate link program: ShopStyle’s influencer community will be able to turn any URL linking to a product, article, or webpage, into an “emoticode,” a shortened URL with the first two characters being emojis. The influencers copy the code into their Snapchat stories.
For the consumers, when they take a screenshot of a Snapchat story that displays the code, the screengrab is sent to a hub inside the Emoticode or ShopStyle apps. There, the users can then revisit all their screenshots, which link directly to the products for purchase. Emoticode works on Instagram, too.
The Snapchat promoters get about 15 percent of each sale.
The ShopStyle community had already played around with links in Snapchat, but it’s been a manual process that can’t formally track sales or facilitate revenue sharing for the bloggers, Sugar said.
One blogger, Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam, has been doing affiliate marketing for about five years through her website, Instagram and other social channels. She writes and creates content around travel, fashion, beauty, and other women’s lifestyle topics.
“Snapchat is a unique way to interact with an audience that’s very different than any social platform out there, even the blog, where it’s not super personal, but Snapchat is,” Engel said. “On Snapchat, you can’t really curate it, it’s immediate, and it’s not glamorized like Instagram.”
Engel, who is in the ShopStyle network, said that Emoticode would be the first time she could make any money for her Snapchat efforts.
Engel hasn’t counted how many Snapchat followers she has, the app doesn’t even give an easy way to know, but her stories average 35,000 views each, she said. And she said fans are always taking screenshots and messaging her to find out more about the products she’s wearing in the stories. “I really like the idea of Emoticode, especially because the screen-shotting behavior is so natural. I screenshot everything,” Engel said.
Brands like Gap, Express, Nordstrom and Anthropologie are among the ones featured in Gal Meets Glam content.
Boutique digital fashion retailer Everlane uses Snapchat to promote its brands with stories that generate about 8,000 views each. Red Gaskell, Everlane’s head of social, said ShopStyle bloggers help promote its products, too, and it has beta tested the emoticodes.
“If you’re strategic about what audience you target with the right partners, it could be super effective. Already, when we’ve done stories ourselves on products, people are snapping us organically to find out where they can buy a product or where it is on the site,” Gaskell said. “So, Snapchat is definitely a place where these interaction are happening, it just has to be as frictionless as possible.”