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‘We are bold around our mission and will continue investing,’ says Snap executive

DUBAI: Snap held its annual Snap Partner Summit in April this year, where the company announced a host of new features and technologies for brands, creators and developers, as well as a camera drone called Pixy.

Arab News spoke to Abdulla Alhammadi, regional business lead at Snap to learn about the new announcements and their regional impact.

“We have moved from desktop to laptop to mobile and everybody’s asking what’s the next thing,” he said. While the answer isn’t clear yet, Snap is betting that in the new world, the camera will play a big role and augmented reality (AR) will be the bridge between the digital and real-world, he said.

This year’s virtual summit was held under the theme of “back to reality,” alluding to the company’s vision of combining AR with the real world. “We have been on a mission of showing how AR can deliver utility …  We took significant steps to show what that means, particularly for retail,” Alhammadi said.

Since January 2021, more than 250 million Snapchat users have engaged with AR shopping Lenses at least 5 billion times. They also rank Snapchat the No. 1 platform for sharing shopping moments.

In the MENA region too, shopping via AR is gaining popularity, resulting in Snap launching what it claims to be the first AR-led virtual mall in the MENA region, featuring leading brands such as L’Oreal, IKEA, Namshi, and Samsung.

Last year, Ramadan campaigns for retailers running an AR lens on Snapchat delivered a 4.3 times higher average purchase value compared to other formats. 

The shopping experience on Snapchat used to use single articles of clothing, which was a novel experience but an impractical one. The new tools allow retailers to display all their products through interactive lenses, including a new kind of shopping lens for trying on outfits, powered by its AR image processing technology, and Dress Up, a dedicated fashion space in Lens Explorer that allows users to browse and share new looks.

The company is in talks with retailers in the region to begin work using the new technologies with early partners including e-commerce companies such as noon and Amazon and luxury brands such as Cartier and Dior.

Taking the camera and AR’s utility to the next level, Snap also announced the launch of a camera drone, Pixy. It is only available for purchase in the US and France and there are no plans for its launch in other countries. 

The limited availability of Pixy is the company’s way of testing the product. “We want to continue testing, globally, on a large scale to understand how humans interact with these different functions before launching globally,” said Alhammadi.

This year, Snapchat’s monthly addressable reach in the MENA region grew by 33 percent year-on-year with the app garnering more than 75 million unique users. Still, earlier this month Snap’s shares dropped by 30 percent following CEO Evan Spiegel’s letter to employees announcing that the company will miss its targets for revenue and adjusted earnings this quarter. He also said that Snap will slow hiring until the end of the year to manage expenses.

Alhammadi, however, isn’t concerned. “The recent economic situation is tough on everybody. But Snap is positioned in a way where we are confident that we can go through this without compromising on where we want to invest.” 

FAST FACTS

• In the UAE and KSA, interacting with products that have AR experiences leads to a 94 percent higher conversion rate.

• On average, 80 percent of consumers in the UAE and KSA expect and desire to use AR as a practical “tool” in their everyday lives.

• Over 85 percent of MENA daily users interact with Lenses every day.

• During Ramadan 2021, Snapchat users in Saudi Arabia viewed AR Lenses more than 90 billion times.

Regionally, at least, the company has no plans of slowing down. “2022 is an investment year for us,” Alhammadi said.

A significant part of that investment will go into Snap’s new space in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. “It will be our first creator studio in the region and serve as a space to nurture our extensive community of creators,” he said.

Snap will also launch a series of programs to address the different communities — including developers, creators and media partners — and enable them to interact with each other as well as with Snap’s global community.

Alhammadi added: “We are bold around our mission and will continue investing.”

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