News

POV: Snapchat Redesign

Background:

Snap Inc has unveiled a new redesign of the Snapchat app with the aim of making it easier to use to address the slow growth in its user base.

Implications:

The redesigned app makes one very big change that brands need to monitor to understand the implications. Previously in the app friend’s stories and brand stories were mixed together to the right of the camera (when you swipe left), but in the update there is now a clear delineation between the commercial and the community content.

To the right of the camera (when you swipe left) there is a redesign of the Discover page of stories from publishers and creators as well as curated posts from the community, arranged in order of relevance based on Snapchat's algorithms. Over time it is designed to become more personalised to the user both through algorithmic and human editing.

To the left of the camera (if you swipe right), there is a new Friends page that pulls together your chats and Snapchat stories, with new messages and friends you've chatted with recently appearing higher on the screen.

Snap founder and CEO Evan Spiegel hinted that there were changes coming in a scheduled earning call in early November, saying: "One thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback.” He went on to say that the changes could be ‘disruptive’ to Snap's business in the short term.

Where Snap may be pinning its hopes is in the fact that its Discover content area is fully curated, so it claims there are none of the brand safety issues that have plagued its competitor’s platforms.

But it is still a big gamble. Will the redesign be welcomed by Snap users? And if it is, by giving the user a better experience – separating the commercial and the non-commercial content out – will Snap see any commercial benefits or will users say ‘thanks very much’ and never swipe to check out any Discover content?

Summary:

This latest update, coming only eight months after Snap’s spectacular IPO, is a big moment for the company. The biggest challenge that Snap faces is the rampant copying of its best features by its biggest competitors. In the fight for users, new features and redesigns are vital. With Facebook and specifically Instagram breathing down its neck, Snap has to innovate to stay ahead. The big gamble in this latest update is that it will starkly delineate between those Snap users who use the platform to communicate with friends and those who use it for content discovery from brands. Success or failure will likely not be known until the next earnings call.

Further Reading:

Snap Blog Post / CNN / NYT