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Snap Unveils New UI for Virtual Try-On and AR E-Commerce

Virtual try-on just got a lot more practical on Snapchat.


When we talk about AR and e-commerce, we’re usually talking about virtual try-on. A lot of shoppers are all about virtual try-on, but these experiences are often separated from one another by virtue of being created by different brands. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see products next to each other in AR just like you can at the store?

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Snap is working on it. “The camera company” just announced a new AR e-commerce interface that lets users swipe through different virtual try-on products and experiences. In this article, we’ll look more closely at this news as well as where it fits in the context of other Snap trends.

The Update for the User

“Today, we’re launching a new type of Shopping Lens so Snapchatters can easily swipe through multiple products in one place,” Team Snap wrote in a post on Wednesday. “They’ll see details on pricing, color, sizing, and similar items, right from the retailer.”

To be clear, experiences like this have existed for a while now. In case you’re out-of-the-loop on this one, you can virtually try-on items, share the experience, and even follow the experience through to purchase the item from the retailer. The update makes it easier to find items available for virtual try-on from the same brand and provides more information about the actual product.

At launch time, the only participating retailers are Ulta Beauty and MAC Cosmetics. A scan of a Snap code takes you to an interface that looks like the standard Snap camera except instead of swiping through different lenses by different creators, you’re swiping through different virtual try-on products.

Snap New UX virtual try-on MAC Cosmetics

A release emailed to ARPost promised that, while beauty and cosmetics have been some of the first and largest adopters of virtual try-on technology (particularly through Snap), more verticals will soon be supported.

“Augmented reality is changing the way we shop, play, and learn, and transforming how businesses tell their stories and sell their products,” Snap’s Chief Business Officer, Jeremi Gorman, said in the release. “Starting today, our revamped AR Shopping Lenses will mean a more engaging experience for our Snapchat community.”

The Update for the Retailer

So far, we’ve looked at the user’s side of the update. However, the update also includes back-end advances for the retailers that work with Snap.

According to Gorman, the update will also “enable a faster, easier way to build Lenses for businesses — directly linking Lenses to existing product catalogs for real-time analytics and R&D about which products resonate with Gen Z and Millennial audiences.” 

The release reported that in addition to gathering new valuable information from the app, the update has allowed retailers to create virtual try-on experiences in “as fast as two minutes.” This is compared to earlier days when retailers needed to partner with experienced lens creators in order to create this kind of experience.

New UX - Snap - MAC catalog

That doesn’t mean that lens creators are going to lose work opportunities. In fact, Snap announced at the last Partner Summit that they are creating channels to make it easier than ever for brands to connect with expert lens creators to create top-notch experiences.

Virtual Try-On and Snap’s Larger E-Commerce Strategy

Speaking of Snap’s events and summits, the 2021 Partner Summit, mentioned above, had loads to say about e-commerce and AR retail. This update has been in the writing on the wall at Snap for a long time. And, what’s coming next isn’t exactly a secret either.

Remember how we said that Snap isn’t interested in taking opportunities away from lens creators? The most recent Snap Lens Fest that took place in December described an upcoming “Call to Action” feature that lens creators could use to create virtual try-on experiences for things like personal websites or other online retail destinations.

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So, while this update is giving retailers the tools of a lens creator, an upcoming update may give lens creators the power of a retailer.

Give and Take and Purchase

Some Snap users might be a little uneasy about data from virtual try-on being shared with the retailers behind these lenses. The retailers behind these lenses might be a little uneasy about how much recent data on their products came from a 27-year-old male ARPost writer who was just researching an article and isn’t interested in buying mascara over Snapchat.

But that’s AR retail. It’s crazy and weird and exciting and it’s only going to get better from here.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.