Social commerce examples: 3 ways augmented reality is the future of sales

By Cristina Ferrandez

The rise in daily social media usage shows no sign of slowing down. In 2012, online users spent an average of 90 minutes on social media. Fast forward to 2020, and on average, we now dedicate 145 minutes to social media apps each day. Depending on who you ask, that may or may not sound like that much, but if you add all these minutes up, it works out at almost 900 hours a year — more time than most people spend eating or exercising. 

It’s no wonder, then, that social media has become such an important channel for retail brands — and a crucial source of product discovery and information for customers. More than half of people browsing social media are looking for information on potential products to purchase. Similarly, almost three-quarters of social media users admit to buying a product after seeing it advertised on social media. 

To better cater to customers using social media for commerce, a new trend has emerged: social commerce. With brands utilising social media networks to enable people to buy items directly from social media apps, shopping online has never been easier — or quicker. Yet despite advances in technology, many people still find that shopping online pales in comparison to shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. The main reason for that is that customers want to try on and test products before making a purchase — something that isn’t possible when shopping online. Or at least, it wasn’t — until now. Enter augmented reality, a technology that enhances the physical world with computer-generated elements and is radically changing social commerce.

Here are three social commerce examples that showcase how brands are already combining their social media efforts with AR. 

1. “Try on” filters

This NYX Professional Makeup social media filter could turn users into a haunted doll character for Halloween
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Some brands choose to promote their products through engaging and fun social media filters without necessarily directing the user to their online store. 

One great example of this is the Halloween-themed filter NYX Professional Makeup launched in 2020. Created in partnership with Poplar Studio, the filter had users exploring a haunted house inhabited by five dolls. Clicking on different rooms within the house, users were transformed into one of the haunted doll characters. However, rather than just getting to “try on” the various makeup looks, people could also interact with them. For example, every time a user opened their mouth while wearing the “Caterina” look, AR flowers blossomed on their head. After trying out a specific look, users could share it with their friends on social media or return to the haunted dollhouse. 

Crucially, the filter prioritised shareability rather than conversions, something that users obviously appreciated. The experience was opened 2.1 million times in the US, and in Spain, engagement rates were as high as 99.8%. 

Although less salesy, this approach does not mean that companies will lose out on revenue. Quite the opposite — customers don’t always like being sold to. Instead, they might prefer to feel like they’re in control and making their own decisions. Many times, if a social media filter interests them, they’ll find the way to your online shop themselves, especially if you include subtle branding and product imagery throughout the AR experience. 

2. Filters with CTAs

social commerce examples
MAC Cosmetics’ Hashtag Challenge on TikTok features a “Shop Now” button
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Augmented reality filters that include a call-to-action (CTA) that brings customers to a brand’s ecommerce store can be a powerful tool in increasing website traffic. 

On Snapchat, a social media platform often described as “the AR leader of apps,” many brands are taking advantage of regular lenses with CTAs to do just that. Introduced in 2015, the Snapchat Lens feature makes it easy for brands to create AR effects and then upload them to the platform for users to apply onto themselves, along with a promotional link.

For example, with a try-on Snapchat Lens, users can see how different products, such as makeup, jewellery, or eyeglasses, would look on them, and then, if the brand has paired the lens with a CTA, go directly to the online shop where they can purchase the product. 

Following the success of Snapchat, TikTok has also recently expanded its offering to AR filters, with companies now finding that branded try-on lenses are a great way to bring users’ attention to their products — especially if they’re part of a Hashtag Challenge. 

As the name suggests, Hashtag Challenges are campaigns that encourage users to record videos of themselves completing specific challenges and then share them with their followers using a particular hashtag. Clicking on the hashtag brings up the hashtag page, which features other users’ videos and a “Shop Now” button directing users to a brand’s online store. 

MAC Cosmetics is just one of the many companies already taking advantage of both AR filters, which let users try on four Liquid Lipcolor shades on the social media platform and click the “Shop Now” button on its fun Hashtag Challenge #MACscaraFace

3. Shoppable filters

social commerce examples
MAC Cosmetics’ Shoppable Lens allows Snapchat users to virtually try out lip and eye products
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Shoppable filters allow users to purchase products they like directly from social media. Not having to leave the page or app makes for a more seamless experience. 

Introduced in 2020, Instagram Shops is the feature that makes this possible on Instagram, a social media platform where 80% of the app’s users follow business profiles in addition to personal ones. Users that visit a business profile where both Instagram Shopping and augmented reality try-on are enabled are able to preview how certain products look on them and then make a purchase without navigating away from the app. This functionality can be accessed through a brand’s shop page, feed posts, and stories.

At the moment, Instagram’s AR feature is limited to cosmetics brands (MAC and NARS have already tried it out) and eyewear (such as Ray-Ban and Warby Parker) but is due to expand in the near to medium-term future to include other products as well. Considering that about one in four Instagram users that see the “Try on” tool use it, it is likely that brands across a wide range of industries will be tempted to at least give it a try. 

Instagram is by no means the only social media platform that offers shoppable filters. Snapchat Shoppables, AR lenses that allow users to buy products directly within the lens on Snapchat, are just as popular. 

Snapchat launched its first Shoppable Lens campaign in 2020, which it created in partnership with Gucci. During the campaign, Snapchatters were able to try on four different pairs of sneakers and then buy a pair they liked immediately without leaving Snapchat using a “Shop Now” button. 

More recently, Snapchat collaborated with MAC Cosmetics to create dynamic shopping lenses that let users experiment with 20 different MAC Cosmetics’ eye and lip products and purchase them via the Snapchat app.

Making these social commerce examples work for you

As demonstrated by the current level of social media’s infiltration into our lives, the popularity of social media platforms is here to stay. For businesses looking to leap ahead of cutting-edge trends, AR social media experiences are an opportunity worth investing in, especially as platforms allow brands to do more than ever with the technology. 

If the above social commerce examples have inspired you to bring your social media strategy to the next level, contact the team at Poplar Studio today. Together, we’ll come up with a plan of action to bring your social commerce to the next level. Who knows, next time there’s an article on social commerce examples, you may be in it!