3 ways to sell using Snapchat
Bilal Kaiser
July 5, 2016

2016 is clearly the year of Snapchat. No longer seen as "that app teens use to send disappearing messages," Snapchat has built a huge following with teens and millennials -- reaching 41% of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. daily. And now, brands are eagerly jumping on board as well.

Brands across industries have hopped on the "fast casual" of social networks. Key players in retail (Amazon, Nordstrom), food and beverage (Ben and Jerry’s, Chipotle), beauty (Maybelline, Sephora) and sports (MLB, NBA) have built active accounts and followings.

As seen on this expansive list from ClickZ, even luxury brands whose key target audience may not necessarily be on Snapchat have set up accounts and post Stories (Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Saks).

For marketers, the key question hovering over any social media activation -- after “Should I be on there?” -- often ends up being about the dollar: “How will this social network help us make money?”

And surprisingly, Snapchat lends itself to interesting ways of tying stories back to sales, and we’ve spotted several brands testing different tactics.

In May, the marketing team behind 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” took away every single lens on Snapchat, and in their place offered lenses featuring different Marvel characters. The company’s goal was to drive opening weekend ticket sales and the takeover was the first time a brand had taken over all of Snapchat’s lenses.

In June, cult beauty brand Urban Decay launched its 100-piece Vice lipstick collection with a filter that allowed Snapchat users to virtually test out every shade of lipstick. Anecdotally, the lens proved very popular as women on Snapchat posted countless Stories using the lens, though sales numbers from Urban Decay weren’t released.

Snapchat isn’t going anywhere and if your brand is active on the network, here are three ways to test connecting your Stories with sales.

Share exclusive, Snapchat-only promotions and drive traffic to your site.

Millennial-focused underwear brand MeUndies posts special collections and offers exclusively on Snapchat, with a secret URL at the end of the offer. The brand’s followers screenshot the URL, get to the URL (by typing it in manually) and redeem the offer.

If it sounds like there are several steps here, you’re right. But despite the clunky process, MeUndies has seen conversion rates on such offers as high as 10-12% -- very impressive, considering most display ads couldn’t even dream of reaching that target. (The sale is tracked back to Snapchat since it’s the only place the URL was shared.)

Help younger customers build a deeper relationship with your brand.

With the intimacy and one-on-one communication on Snapchat comes a tremendous opportunity to take your brand’s customer service experience to the next level. If you’re actively posting Stories featuring your products, you’re bound to get questions and notes organically.

But by inviting interaction, you can not only get feedback but also invite trial of your products. Beauty brands like Benefit Cosmetics, which recently hosted its own eyebrow-focused lens, invite Snapchat users to show how their products look on individual consumers’ skin. Benefit even tied the brow lens into a contest, encouraging the community to use the lens and upload a screenshot to Instagram as a method of entry.

The back-and-forth communication between brand and consumer will most certainly be time consuming and require a lot of patience, but the long-term potential and brand affinity with Snapchat’s valuable user base makes it well worth it.

Test third-party apps to “link” product Stories to sales.

If you follow retail brands like Nordstrom and Everlane, you may have seen a call-to-action to download something called Emoticode and enter a funny looking code into the app.

Created by the team behind PopSugar, Emoticode taps into the popularity of screenshotting something on Snapchat and layers onto it an affiliate program-like approach.

If users like something a brand has posted -- and it has an Emoticode in the shot, which starts with two emojis -- they can screenshot it. Then, users open Emoticode, let it find and decode the screenshot image and, voila, the product is available for purchase. According to Digiday, the Snapchat promoter gets about 15% of each sale.

I asked the team at Nordstrom if they had seen any traction by using the app.

“We see services like Emoticode as another opportunity to connect with customers using a service that they enjoy and we hope supports a seamless (or relatively seamless) way to shop with us,” a company spokeman said via email, adding that it’s too soon to gauge if customers are loving the app.

One of the benefits of Snapchat is its casual, easy nature, which means marketers can quickly post things without making every social push a production. And that means you can feel free to test different ways to build a community, deepen relationships and, ultimately, drive sales.

Bilal Kaiser has worked in digital/social marketing & public relations for companies like L'Oreal and Sony Pictures Entertainment, and teaches the subject at UCLA and General Assembly. He now runs his own boutique social/PR firm in Los Angeles called Agency Guacamole, helping clients in the lifestyle and tech space tell authentic, relevant & inspiring stories across channels.