Snapchat is working on a visual product search feature that will transform a smartphone camera into a tool for shopping on Amazon’s e-commerce site, according to a report from TechCrunch. The Android version of Snapchat’s image-sharing app has an unreleased “visual search” feature that would let users identify an object, song or bar code by sending data to Amazon, music identification service Shazam or other tech partners.
App researcher Ishan Agarwal, who has revealed several Instagram features before they were officially added to the image-sharing app, discovered the code for Snapchat’s visual search feature, which is codenamed “Eagle.” The feature may be connected to Snapchat’s “context cards” that let advertisers show more information about their brands while giving viewers a chance to interact.
Notations in Snapchat’s code do not explain how the visual search feature will work, but in the newest version of Snapchat Project Eagle was renamed as “Camera Search.” It’s not clear whether Amazon is helping to develop the visual search technology, or is just providing the e-commerce destination for Snapchat’s shoppers, per TechCrunch.
The visual search project appears to be a way for Snapchat to expand the camera features of its app while helping to generate e-commerce revenue with companies like Amazon or Shazam providing additional support. The visual search feature is also a sign that the company is transforming its app into a tool to help people navigate the world around them, instead of posting selfies and pictures that disappear after 24 hours. Using Snapchat to identify objects to buy or to scan bar codes could turns the app into more of a utility and reflects how, for smartphone users, scanning the world around them is becoming second nature.
Snapchat, which has 191 million users, has sought a path to profitability since parent company Snap went public and opened itself to greater scrutiny from investors and competitors like Facebook. Snap reported a loss of $385 million in Q1 2018, and needs additional sources of revenue as its user growth slows and companies like Facebook copy its key features, something partnering Amazon could help it achieve. Amazon started its affiliate marketing program in 1996 that pays commissions to other businesses that provide links to products in the company’s web store, a revenue-sharing arrangement that has become one of the most popular in the world.
If Snapchat is adding a visual search feature, it will be among the companies whose apps are connected to an image search engine to help identity and find products to buy. Google is the most predominant provider of visual search with its Google Lens feature that works on its line of Pixel smartphones and a growing number of Android apps. Pinterest also has a feature called Lens that lets users combine photo and text searches. Pinterest Lens has been embraced by a number of marketers, including Target, which has integrated the technology into its app.
Snapchat last year added its World Lenses feature that uses augmented reality (AR) to map a user’s surroundings and place 3D animated objects like its dancing hotdog in pictures. Snapchat also released a search feature that compiles Stories of user-submitted Snaps by image content and an associated keyword, like videos with “puppies” or “fireworks,” even when photo captions don’t have text, per TechCrunch.