Snapchat teams up with Amazon for image-based shopping

(Bloomberg)—Snapchat is teaming up with Inc. to let users of its social media app buy products based on what they see through their smartphone’s camera lenses.

Snapchat’s mobile app opens up to a camera, which people can use to send disappearing images and videos to their friends. Now, users will be able to point the Snapchat camera at a product they see in the real world to scan its image or barcode. If Amazon recognizes the item, it will present a link to purchase it on the retail giant’s app or website, parent company Snap Inc. said Monday in a blog post. Amazon declined to comment.

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The shopping tool, which is only available to a small set of users in the U.S. for now, could eventually present another source of revenue for the troubled social-media company. The Los Angeles-based company, which went public at $17 a share last year, has posted disappointing revenue growth and user additions in some recent quarters. The company declined to comment on its financial relationship with Amazon.

Amazon and rival EBay Inc. both already have visual search functions. The pairing with Snap helps Amazon encourage use of visual search with younger shoppers and helps keep Snapchatters from straying to competing commerce sites. The accord could also help Amazon make its site easier to navigate. With hundreds of millions of products to comb through, using text search can be cumbersome when shoppers aren’t sure precisely how to describe what they want. A photo can deliver relevant results more quickly.

The move is part of a broader trend to incorporate smartphone cameras into commerce by using image-recognition technology to streamline the searching and shopping process. Pinterest Inc. has a similar tool to shop for items or search for ideas via images. Online marketplace EBay is using smartphones to let merchants simply point their cameras at products and then auto-populate fields such as brand and product description, and even to suggest prices and the best box size. Seattle-based Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500, and others are also using smartphones and augmented reality to let shoppers point their cameras at their living rooms, for example, to see how a new couch might look inside before they buy it.

Amazon also has added a browsing option called Scout to that lets consumers see photos of an array of products and click a thumbs up or thumbs down icon to indicate interest. If a consumer clicks the thumbs up button, the product page immediately reloads with products with similar attributes. Scout is “a visual way to shop without words,” Amazon says in a video describing how the search tool works. For now, Scout search refinements are limited to products in a handful of categories: furniture, home décor, lighting, kitchen and dining, patio, bedding and women’s shoes.

In addition, Amazon has integrated Spark, which since early 2017 lived on the Amazon Shopping mobile app, onto Spark is a Pinterest-like social sharing program in which Amazon Prime members can create and share collections of products for public view. On the desktop site, Spark has been integrated into the visual-browsing tool dubbed Interesting Finds, which is labeled as “See something new, every day” and appears above the traditional text search box on the homepage. The Interesting Finds visual-browsing tool has been available on for more than a year and, similar to Scout, encourages browsers to click a heart icon on products they like. On future visits, the products the consumer sees in the “something new” section are refined to the indicated interests.

Allison Enright contributed to this report.


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