Q&A: Kathryn Carter – AR Can Offer Brands More Impactful Connections with Consumers

As brick-and-mortar retail gets its bearings following the pandemic, that light at the end of the tunnel just might well be illumination from a smartphone user trying on a new outfit via augmented reality rather than a dressing room at the local mall.

To get more insight on the increasing use of AR (for more than just watching dinosaurs waltz across your living room floor) we recently caught up for a conversation with Kathryn Carter, General Manager of APAC at Snap Inc – a company that has invested significantly over the years in creating user-friendly AR tech for use by both consumers and brands.

According to Carter, over 200 million Snapchatters engage with augmented reality every day on average, at a rate of more than 6 billion times per day.

Over the course of our conversation, “KC” talks about Snap’s growth in APAC, the company’s offerings in the AR field, how the technology will affect the way we shop, its impact on sustainability practices, and more.

 
 

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

We’ve just concluded our first AR Shopping event in Singapore, where we unveiled unique fashion and beauty AR shopping features. It was great to see a mix of guests who could come in person to enjoy the exclusive experiences we had created for them through interactive try-on corners.

The feedback was amazing at the event and we are looking forward to introducing more of Snapchat’s features, especially in AR, at more of such events in the future!

Speaking about the use of augmented reality (AR) you’ve previously described it as being the “most personalized, immersive way to engage consumers.” Can you talk more about that?

Augmented reality experiences are personal, immersive, and interactive in a way that other brand activations simply cannot be. AR is rapidly personalizing the product to the individual shopper by overlaying it on their faces, bodies, or even home settings.

 
 

Some apparel brands are even tapping into the latest AR technology such as body gestures and voice recognition, allowing customers to use their hands or voice commands to change outfits.

This personalization also gives shoppers more confidence while decision-making. Snap research shows that AR delivers almost 2x the levels of visual attention compared to non-AR equivalents, leading to improved memories and more impactful connections with consumers. As a result, 80% of shoppers feel more confident in their purchases when they use AR for shopping.

Personalization with AR pays off for brands too as they can benefit directly with higher purchase intent and brand preference when an AR ad is in the mix. Our research has shown that interacting with products with AR brings a 94% higher purchase conversion rate.

“Augmented reality experiences are personal, immersive, and interactive in a way that other brand activations simply cannot be.”

As such, Snap has been actively investing in the AR space. In January 2022, we introduced Catalog-powered Shopping Lenses — a new AR commerce experience that offers the fastest and easiest way to shop and try-on multiple products, all within one seamless AR experience.

Snapchat’s AR shopping products are automatically personalized to the shopper, shaping the product to fit the user’s face and body perfectly. Snapchatters can natively shop for individual products within one AR try-on experience, making buying products on Snapchat incredibly easy.

Case in point Ulta Beauty — the brand has generated 30 million product trials and US$6 million in product purchases through Snapchat’s Shopping Lenses.

From a sustainability point of view, AR is especially promising. Tell us about that.

Online shopping has risen exponentially during the pandemic. However, there is a high environmental cost incurred, especially for online shopping returns. ‘Bracketing’ — where consumers buy similar products in various colors or sizes with the intention of sending them back — has become a problem with 30% of products bought online being returned compared to 8.89% for in-store returns.

With 94% of people expecting to use AR for shopping the same or more in 2022 versus 2021, and 3 out of 4 thinking that AR is the future of shopping, Augmented Reality in retail could have a big positive impact on returns, reducing waste produced.

“We are an antidote to traditional, user-generated content-based and “broadcast style” social media.”

Furthermore, according to Deloitte, AR-guided purchases led to a 25% decrease in returns, and 66% of shoppers who use AR are less likely to return their purchases. With more people expected to use AR for shopping, there is great potential for the retail industry to be more sustainable with digital fashion.

Snap aims to lead the use of AR by brands. What sets your offering apart from others expanding into this sector?

Snap has always believed that AR represents the next major shift in computing, and is committed to leading the way. Snapchat AR has evolved from being just for entertainment and self-expression to having true utility for both consumers and businesses.

For brands specifically, our camera-first approach creates a compelling long-term monetization opportunity as more and more brands adopt Snap’s AR and creative tools to drive business solutions in previously unimaginable ways.

Firstly, since the launch of the first AR Lenses in 2015, Snap has greatly evolved AR not only for entertainment, but also for utility use-cases including education, commerce, and the arts. Today, over 200 million Snapchatters engage with augmented reality every day on average, more than 6 billion times per day.

“Snap research shows that AR delivers almost 2x the levels of visual attention compared to non-AR equivalents, leading to improved memories and more impactful connections with consumers. As a result, 80% of shoppers feel more confident in their purchases.”

Secondly, from the outset, Snapchat was built differently than traditional social media platforms. We are an antidote to traditional, user-generated content-based and “broadcast style” social media. Instead, Snapchat empowers communication with real friends.

Snapping — or talking with pictures — was born out of our realization that the camera, has become a powerful platform for self-expression and visual communication — that’s why Snapchat is centered around communication with a close network of people you actually know in real life.

It thus comes as no surprise that Snapchat is ranked the #1 happiest platform when compared to other apps, reaching more than 75% of 13-34-year-olds in over 20 countries. Our product design helps minimize the spread of dis/misinformation as it’s hard for things to go viral. This way, we focus on providing accurate news coverage and information as our Discover platform features verified media publishers and creators.

At the recent AR Shopping Lunch hosted by Snap in Singapore, we saw global brands effectively using the technology. What are plans for availability to smaller businesses and even online solopreneurs?

During the event, we showcased various beauty and fashion AR collaborations on Snapchat, including MAC Cosmetics and Estée Lauder. For example, MAC Cosmetics successfully used catalog-powered Shopping Lenses to drive 1.3 million try-on experiences at a cost of 0.31 cents per product trial and secured a 17x higher lift in purchases among females, 2.4x higher lift in brand awareness, and 9x higher lift in purchase intent.

These results are very encouraging. We look forward to partnering with local businesses in the region to bring Snap’s AR technology to more retailers, big and small, in the fashion and beauty industry.

What are some of your favorite creative campaigns you’ve seen using AR technology?

I can’t talk about AR campaigns without mentioning AR in shopping! AR shopping on Snapchat offers consumers the ability to try on and experience products from makeup to sunglasses to sneakers. For the first time, Snapchatters can try on a new outfit without having to change their clothes.

With 2D try-on on Snapchat, users can start by taking a few full-body photos in any outfit. The computer vision technology will then complete the job automatically, applying the product image onto the photo instantly, as if the user is wearing the garment.

“We’re currently working to build and sustain our user base here in Asia, where we foresee an increase of active Snapchatters, following an increasing trend around the adoption of AR in recent years.”

Additionally, shopping lenses continue to resonate with the Snapchat community. According to a global shopping study, 1 in 4 shoppers said they would actually prefer to use AR to try on clothes virtually rather than visit a store to do so in real life.

Ultimately, we want to make AR accessible to everyone. For example, Snap’s AR shopping templates allow businesses to create their own catalog-shopping Lenses for Snapchat with little to no knowledge of the AR development process. Snap is committed to developing new technologies to help enable businesses of all sizes to create AR Shopping experiences quickly and easily – bringing personalized, immersive shopping opportunities to shoppers.

Another campaign I want to highlight is the collaboration with Crypto.com. Snap worked with Crypto.com to create awareness around the Super Bowl. For this execution, Crypto.com wanted to amplify their Super Bowl commercial across media and transport people to Lebron James’ bedroom in 2003.

To do so, they tapped into the unique power of Snap AR to create immersive experiences to develop a Portal Lens experience where Snapchatters could walk around and interact with various elements in Lebron’s room. I tried it for myself and felt that I was instantly transported to Lebron’s room through my mobile screen. How cool is that?

A lot of Snap’s growth in APAC is taking place in India. What other markets do you expect to see strong growth this year in the region?

Every market is unique in its own ways. APAC is a growing market for Snap, where businesses in the region aim to reach our highly engaged community in other global markets through advertising on Snapchat.

We’re currently working to build and sustain our user base here in Asia, where we foresee an increase of active Snapchatters, following an increasing trend around the adoption of AR in recent years.


MORE: Gareth Leeding on AR Accelerator – a Bespoke AR Education Program in Singapore

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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