Evan Spiegel, CEO of SNAP Inc.Stephen Desaulniers | CNBCSnap said Thursday that its social media app Snapchat has reached 500 million monthly active users.Shares of Snap closed up more than 5% on Thursday after the company announced the feat.This is a significant milestone for Snap, a company that refused multi-billion dollar acquisition offers by Facebook before it went public in 2017 and survived an ill-fated redesign in 2018 that its users hated.Snap had never released monthly-active-user figures before Thursday. Rather, the company had always focused on its daily user base, which reached 280 million in April. That’s up 22% compared to a year prior.To be sure, the company’s 500 million monthly users are just a fraction of the 2.85 billion who open Facebook each month.The milestone was announced Thursday at the company’s 2021 Snap Partner Summit, where it also shared a number of new augmented-reality features that could help the company monetize that 500 million monthly user base.There’s a scene in 1995’s “Clueless” where Cher Horowitz uses a computer to quickly glance and superimpose the catalog of clothing in her closet on her body to pick the perfect outfit.At the time, it was a fantastical technology, reserved for a rich girl, but now, Snap is releasing something similar for the masses.The features announced on Thursday will allow users to browse companies’ catalogs of clothing and accessories using the Snapchat app. These features will make it possible for users to virtually try on goods, visualizing how they will look on them in real life.With these features, users can stand up their phone or set it on a stand and face it toward them. The screen will superimpose augmented-reality clothing on the user, who can then sift through and try on other virtual clothing. Snap’s new features will allow consumers to use voice and gesture commands to move through items. Users can say “next” or wave their hands to overlay the next item on their bodies.The company is also launching a “wrist-tracking technology” that allows consumers to use AR lenses to try on watches and jewelry.Another new feature, called Screenshop, allows consumers to use the Snapchat camera to scan a friend’s outfit and shop for similar looks recommended by the app.Snap is also rolling out public profiles for businesses, which will allow brands to showcase their posts and AR lenses. These profiles will also include Shop pages, where users can browse brands’ catalogs and buy goods directly through the Snapchat app.The company is also introducing a new technology called Connected Lenses, which allow friends in distant places to interact with the same virtual lenses. To start, the company will have a lens that allows users to build a Lego kit together.These features are part of a broader push by Snap and other social media companies to bring more e-commerce shopping directly into their apps. This capability has become particularly important since Apple in April rolled out iOS 14.5, an update to the iPhone and iPad operating systems that lets users pick which apps are allowed to track their activity on their devices.With Apple’s new privacy features, social media companies will have a harder time proving the effectiveness of their ads if consumers don’t make a purchase immediately after viewing the ad or within their own apps.This is why Snap in February announced its plans to provide advertisers with more opportunities to provide their products and services to Snap users directly through Snapchat. With the announcement of Thursday’s AR shopping features, Snap is taking some of its first steps delivering on those promises.
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