Merchant Innovation

Snapchat App Snapbots To Sell Smart Spectacles

The Snapbots are coming! The Snapbots are coming … to sell you Spectacles. That is, smart sunglasses sold from a vending machine.

We finally have a definitive answer to the mysterious, canary-yellow marketing campaign Snapchat launched earlier this year.

Sixty billboards went up in cities nationwide. Some of them featured the company’s ghost mascot or a bunch of disembodied cartoon eyes. Some sported a model sporting a chic pair of sunglasses with two sets of digital lights on either corner. Others referenced regional geotag text with which Snapchat allows users to overlay their photos. But there was no clear branding on any of them unless you were in on the reference.

Well, it turns out the billboards were cryptic ads for Spectacles.

And just what are Spectacles? They’re Snapchat’s new, $130 wearable tech product: smart sunglasses with an integrated camera that shoots 10-second first-person videos and wirelessly sends them to the Memories feature on your Snapchat account (assuming you have one).

Spectacles are compatible with iPhone 5 and later models running iOS 8 or above and Android devices running Android 4.3 and above with BLE and WiFi Direct.

Spectacles will be sold by Snapbots: vending machines with a digital display that Snapchat will use as the product’s only means of distribution (that is, of course, until the resellers get involved).

Snapbots will appear in cities across the U.S. for mere days at a time before being whisked away to their next destination. Prospective customers will get a sneak peek of upcoming Snapbot locations on the Spectacles website. Snapchat also hopes to generate hype by allowing for the chance that pedestrians will stumble upon a Snapbot by providence.

Snapbots are an interesting combination of a vending machine and a pop-up store. On the one hand, they’re using a relatively low-cost, unattended distribution method combined with even lower-cost word-of-mouth marketing, and the other hand, it’s one that’s associated with short-term, exclusive retail. Snapchat may just get the best of both worlds.

The army of Snapbots are debit card- and credit card-compatible, ready for a new type of Snapchat customer to fork over their payment. It’s not just millennials and post-millennials using a free service any longer. It’s millennials and post-millennials (or their parents, more likely) with expendable income and a credit history. Combined with the low cost of distribution, this could result in some huge profit margins for Snapchat.

The question is, will the product sell?

Wearable tech has had mixed results in the past few years — while fitness-related wearables have taken off, smartwatch sales have been lagging, and Google glass has basically been in hiding since early 2015.

Spectacles have a few things going for them that could aid sales figures. First and foremost, they’re not redundant.

Though it’s true they’re extremely niche, they’re not a rehash of the pre-existing Snapchat product. They provide an additional feature, an augmented participation option for an incredibly popular app. The first-person video is different enough that, when combined with the hype and initial rarity, the Spectacles could draw a lot of attention.

Second, the Spectacles are not too, too pricey. High-end analog sunglasses sell for way more — and they aren’t even Bluetooth-compatible. If the Spectacles function as well as a pair of traditional sunglasses, and consumers respond well to their design aesthetic, the addition of the camera might be incidental — a nifty bonus feature to a killer pair of shades.

Third, they’re easy. Customers won’t have to learn a new language to engage with the product, and the storage case the Spectacles come in also charges them, so there aren’t additional charging and conversion cables necessary. As quickly as customers can buy and link the product to their account, they can become experts.

If all goes well, the combined product and accompanying distribution campaign could be precedent-setting for future wearable tech and unattended retail endeavors. But if they don’t sell well, the release is limited enough that Snapchat probably won’t be hurt too much by it, if at all.

For the latest in unattended retail news, trends, and developments, take a look at the PYMNTS.com Unattended Retail Tracker, powered by USA Technologies.

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