Regardless of what you think about Snapchat, you have to admit, the way they go about their business is certainly a breath of fresh air.
A few weeks back, Snapchat announced that it would give users to option to purchase replays of snaps at a price of three for $ US0.99. While the announcement, in itself, wasn’t seen as anything major, it was important in that it signified Snapchat’s first dip into in-app purchases, another avenue for monetization for the ephemeral content app – which is still working out the best way to convert their massive audience reach and engagement into an equally significant commercial opportunity.
Earlier today, Snapchat extended their in-app purchase options, giving users the ability to purchase previously run lenses for $ US0.99 each. Lenses, introduced back in September, use facial recognition technology to enable users to transform their selfies into anything from elderly versions of themselves to frightening monsters.
Currently, there are seven different Lenses available each day, with a new one introduced to replace the oldest every 24-hours. This means that you only have a limited time to access the ‘rainbow vomit’ or ‘flaming skeleton’ Lens – unless, of course, you want to pay for the priviledge. Under the new system, users will now be able to purchase their favorite Lens and have it forever, so you can re-shoot your bizarre monster look over and over again in various poses and locales.
The move makes sense, it gives Snapchat a new addition to their in-app store, which they can look to expand upon with other options, including filters and additional image-contorting tools. It also works with Snapchat’s core audience – as Snapchat’s user base skews very young, their primary consumers, in general, don’t have a heap of expendable income to be putting towards upgrades and additions. But $ 0.99 is no big deal, right? The option is low risk (free Lenses will still be available as normal) and it gives Snapchat another option to make more money.
Or at least, that’s how it may seem.
A raft of Snapchat users took to Twitter today to express their disapproval of the move.
People are evidently not happy at the prospect of being charged to use their favorite Lenses – and while the tweets continued to pile up, Snapchat showed that it was hearing the feedback and the opposition to the change. Not by back-pedalling or offering a solution, mind you. No, rather than take the usual social media platform approach of ignoring such criticism outright or seeking to address the main concerns, Snapchat (as you can see in each of the above examples) started re-tweeting them.
It’s a move that seems directly aligned with Snapchat’s ‘outside the box’ approach, and particularly that of their oft-criticised leader, Evan Spiegel.
While poking your fans by effectively making fun of their criticism is a risky move, Snapchat will likely get away with it, and might even gain more fans in the process.
At the end of the day, the option to pay for Lenses is exactly that – an option. The existing ways in which users have been accessing and using Lenses will remain in place, no one (at this stage at least) is being forced to spend money to use them. And while some are clearly don’t approve of Snapchat’s incremental shifts towards monetization, the addition of in-app purchase options like this is a great way to better commercialize the platform without causing any significant disruption to the user experience – shoving in additional ads between snaps, for example, would be a much worse outcome, though it would likely net Snapchat considerably more revenue.
In addition to the Lens Store, Snapchat has also introduced a new ‘Official Stories’ function, which is basically a verification emoji highlighting official content from celebrities or popular accounts. But rather than going with a traditional tick or similar as their stamp of approval, Snapchat has, of course, put its own spin on things.
As noted by The Verge, this will prove especially helpful in the case of celebrites whose accounts are not listed under their actual names, like Justin Bieber (‘rickthesizzler) and Kylie Jenner (‘kylizzlemynizzl’).
(image via The Verge)
A lot of celebrities are, in fact, listed under different names, so it makes sense that Snapchat has added in such a feature.
While the addition of buyable Lenses and re-plays are only minor in themselves, they add to the wider ability for Snapchat to build more revenue, pushing the company further towards justifying their lofty $ 16 billion valuation (which, incidentally, took a hit earlier this week). The biggest question over Snapchat, despite its massive popularity and growing influence, is whether their key audience will be considered lucrative enough, in advertising terms, to justify the large-scale brand investment the app will need to generate significant revenue. Analysts see strong potential, and the numbers underline the logic for such enthusiasm, but potential will mean little if the app can’t convert it into real earnings potential, which it’s hoping to demonstrate ahead of an IPO.
While only a small part of a bigger puzzle, additions like this play a part in the wider intentions of Evan Spiegel’s evolving snap empire.