Snapchat has entered the world of mapping, and despite widespread concern around the associated safety and privacy issues (which aren’t to be underestimated), it opens up intriguing new possibilities for local businesses.
The use of location data is not necessarily new to Snap; for some time it’s been an integral part of Snapchat’s popular Geofilters and stickers. However the update allows Snapchat’s 166 million users to see where their contacts are located to a precise point on a map. Additionally, any videos and photographs shared using the Snapchat ‘Our Stories’ feature will display the user’s location on the Snap Map, allowing users to browse photos and videos from specific locations around the world, including breaking news and events. Heat maps will also show where lots of Snaps are being uploaded, which might indicate a concert or big event that’s worth exploring.
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Snapchat is positioning Snap Map as a discovery tool, above anything else (as the video above highlights). Snap product designer Jack Brody explains (in an interview with Refinery29) that “in a lot of ways, we’re taking what a map is and turning it upside down. This map isn’t about where am I, it’s about where are my friends and what are they up to? It’s not about figuring out how to get to your destination, but about discovering where you want to go.”
It’s this inverse approach to maps that could be interesting, for local businesses in particular. While Google maps, for example, is all about making local businesses findable; Snap Map could offer some alternative possibilities. Here’s an overview of what we believe is most interesting for businesses, or worth bearing in mind…
Local businesses will be able to observe offline behaviours and regular location stops within their precise geographic area, which could be a valuable source of customer intelligence. While the next evolution of the Snap Map feature might include analytics, for now, local businesses can still learn a lot about what drives ‘hotspots’ within their area, what’s popular with Snapchat users, how the competition is faring, the sort of deals that drive shares and engagement, etc. Learning from this, businesses can tailor some of their services and products to a Snapchat audience, if it makes sense.
Snap Map brings social media to the real world, and as the video above illustrates, it’s about encouraging friends to meet up in person rather than viewing each other’s lives through their smartphone. Local businesses should be thinking creatively about how they can capitalise on this, by organising or participating within a local event for example, which Snapchat users will come to, post about, and draw their friends to.
For example, a fashion boutique might have a flash sale, and when customers who are also Snapchat users come into the store, they could encourage them to post Snap Stories about the sale, helping to create a hotspot that anyone can check in on.
Taking this a step further, a business close to a breaking news hotspot could be quick enough to use it to their advantage. This would require keeping a close eye on what’s trending within their area. Snapchat updates in real time and so there’s the potential to create content or offers that connect with a breaking event, helping the business to also have a presence within the hotspot.
It seems highly likely that Snap Map will open up new advertising opportunities, allowing businesses to advertise to users based on the places they visit in the real world. This isn’t something that’s available right now. Techcrunch journalist Josh Constine writes, “for now, Snap tells me there won’t be any ads on the Snap Map. If you see a cluster of content labelled ‘Featured’, that just means it’s curated by Snapchat’s team and will appear in the Discover section, as well.” But it seems highly likely that Snap is putting the elements in place for a location-based ad business, which could even give Google a run for its money.
According to Business Insider, internet analyst Jason Helfstein at investment firm Oppenheimer believes, “in the long term, we see an online-to-offline advertising ecosystem emerging that Snap can use to advertise through the transaction lifecycle: 1) building brand awareness and 2) driving store traffic.” He sees Snap Maps as a way to eventually surface location-based ads alongside user-submitted snaps.
So for example, local businesses could pay to be visible on a user’s map when they’re in the area. This could significantly boost a business’ foot traffic; for example a 2014 study by Google found that 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their phone visited a store the same day.
This is certainly a space for local businesses to watch. While there may be much controversy around Snap Maps, and it’s important that businesses take an ethical stance in not marketing directly to children; the opportunities for local businesses are quite exciting!