You may not have used it yet, but at some point in the past few years you’ve probably heard of Snapchat. Whether it was a news story about racy sexting, user privacy concerns or the founders turning down billions of dollars for the app, Snapchat has made a lot of headlines. What you may have missed is that Snapchat has also become a highly effective way for brands to interact with current customers and acquire new ones.

So, who’s using Snapchat? How are they doing it? And most importantly, how can your ecommerce business use Snapchat to boost sales, brand recognition and customer loyalty?

What is Snapchat?

Even though just about everyone has heard of Snapchat, many people still aren’t sure what it is. So let’s get that out of the way first.

At its core, Snapchat is a time-limited photo sharing app available only on mobile devices. You snap a picture or record a short video and send it to a friend. Before you hit send you can add doodles, captions, a few basic filters and set a time limit for photo viewing. The default time is ten seconds, but it can be set for less. Once it’s opened, the “snap” is viewable for ten seconds (or whatever time you set) and then it deletes itself never to be seen again.

Snapchat introduced stories in late 2013. Stories are made from a series of snaps and are available to view for up to 24 hours after a user opens it. Disappearing text messages, video calls and other features have also been added recently.

Snapchat is fun, fast and temporary, and while it started out as a tool for sexting, businesses are now starting to realize why Snapchat can be a great marketing tool if used properly.

Using Snapchat for Marketing

Snapchat can be an effective marketing tool, but as with any marketing channel, it’s important to know the demographics.

The majority of Snapchat users are females, with an estimated 71 percent of users under 25. If your product or service doesn’t cater to millennials, Snapchat probably shouldn’t be the first marketing arrow in your quiver. With that said, if Snapchat is around for the long haul — and it’s looking like it will be — don’t forget about it if you have an older audience. Remember, when Facebook first started it was aimed at a younger crowd too, yet now just about everyone has a Facebook account. It’s quite possible Snapchat may follow a similar path.


Now that you know Snapchat’s users are mostly millennials, here a few other things you should know before launching your first Snapchat marketing campaign.

  • 30 million active monthly users
  • 77% of college students use Snapchat daily
  • 45% of college students would open a snap from a brand they didn’t know
  • 73% of college students would open a snap from a brand they did know
  • 58% of college students would be likely to purchase a product if sent a coupon on Snapchat
  • 67% of college students would like to receive discounts or promotions from brands on Snapchat

Aside from the fact that Snapchat users are young, they’re open to engaging in conversations with brands. If you have a young target demographic, Snapchat is an easy way to build a relationship with them.

Leveraging Snapchat

Saying you can engage with your audience through Snapchat and actually being successful at it in the real world are two very different things. So let’s take a look at a few creative ways you can leverage Snapchat to market your business and how a few real brands are doing it.

Exclusive Pre-Launch Previews

Build anticipation for your product by giving followers an exclusive sneak peek. Followers are your core customers. They’re the people who tell their friends about the amazing things you’re doing. Before you launch a new product, give them a preview. It could be individual teaser images, a short product video trailer or even a Snapchat story showing your product being used in a unique way. The key is to know your audience, what will get them excited and to give them enough time to spread the word before you launch.

Taco Bell Running A Snapchat Promotion

Taco Bell is one of the best at using Snapchat to announce new products with exclusive content. They’ve used Snapchat to build buzz prior to releasing their Fiery Doritos Taco, Beefy Crunch Burrito and many other new product offerings. It works because they know their core customers, engage with them, and use images that appeal to their personalities.

Reward Customers with Coupons

Everyone loves a discount. Snapchat is an effective and fast way to reward customers and fans with discounts. Snapchat discounts also create a sense of urgency. Since snaps are only available for a maximum of 10 seconds, users have to be ready to write down your code or lose it forever. Even if the discount can be redeemed at any time, the time limited nature of a snap forces users to develop a sense of urgency regarding the offer. That makes it more likely they’ll hurry to your website and place their order immediately.

Many online retailers use Snapchat to send discounts to followers, but one of the most interesting uses of Snapchat coupons comes from frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles. The store offers discount codes to any customer who sends a snap of them or their friends eating a 16 Handles frozen yogurt. Discounts range from 5% to 100%. The catch is that they have to show the coupon code to the cashier. In effect, they can’t open the snap to find out how much of a discount they receive unless they go to the store. It’s a great way to drive foot traffic.

16 Handles Using Snapchat To Provide Discounts

Obviously that technique wouldn’t work for online retailers, but now that Snapchat has included disappearing text messages, ecommerce stores could use this same technique by including the link to the discount in their text. Users either have to click on it immediately or miss out on the discount.

Get More Followers with a Giveaway or Contest

Rewarding current customers isn’t enough if you want to stay in business; you also need to be acquiring new ones. One way to do that with Snapchat is with a giveaway or contest. Create a giveaway or contest and promote it across other social media platforms and your website. Make it clear that the giveaway is being conducted through your Snapchat account and include your account username. Your current fans will retweet and share those posts resulting in a rapid influx of new Snapchat followers and people interested in your brand.

Chat Sports is an online ticket provider that used Snapchat to do just this sort of thing. In order to enter the contest, users had to have five friends add Chat Sports to their Snapchat account. The friends then had to send Chat Sports a unique image containing the username of the fan who referred them, along with the hashtag #gimmietickets. In return, users were given a chance to win tickets to a sporting event.Chat Sports Providing Giveaways on Snapchat

In just 48 hours Chat Sports received 150 entries and hundreds of new Snapchat followers they can interact with.

While the Chat Sports contest was successful, it was a little clumsy. They could have streamlined it a bit and probably gained more followers. Giveaways and contests have a way of going viral on their own. Dropping the friend requirement and running a simple unique photo contest with a tweet and hashtag requirement would likely attract just as many new followers and simplify the process for users.

Give Behind the Scenes Looks

What goes into making a product is often interesting to the people using it. Use Snapchat’s video or story features to create a behind the scenes look at what goes into making your product or to tell unique stories about the people who make it.

The NFL and NBA are great at this. They use it to give fans short glimpses of what goes into game planning, practices, injury rehab and even what’s involved in preparing to host a game.

McDonald’s Snapchat account is another great example of giving a behind the scenes look at things. They routinely send out candid snaps, videos or stories from famous athletes like LeBron Janes, Richard Sherman and others who also happen to be affiliated with McDonald’s.

McDonald's Use Snapchat To Give Behind The Scenes Look

Figure out what your fans would like to see that happens behind the scenes and get creative.

Announce Sales

Seasonal sales, especially things like Christmas and 4th of July sales, are a great time to use Snapchat to let followers know about upcoming specials. Create a snap of a Christmas card or other festive occasion and send it out to followers announcing an upcoming sale. In addition to announcing the sale, the snap keeps you on your follower’s minds when they are already planning to shop.

Snapchat and Your Brand

Ecommerce companies don’t have as many opportunities to show their personality as brick and mortar shops do. Most don’t run television ads or have stores that people can walk into. Ecommerce businesses rely on social media to let the world know who they really are and what they stand for. Combining an awesome personality with fun pictures, discounts and giveaways creates loyal customers who are happy to tell their friends about your company.

At the end of the day, getting the most from Snapchat marketing is all about knowing your audience. Just like any other marketing campaign, your Snapchat account needs to reflect your brand’s personality and appeal to your core customers.

Should You Add Snapchat to Your Marketing Strategy?

If you know your audience and the personality of your brand, using Snapchat can be an effective way to capture the attention of your customers. If you don’t know those things, it’s time to figure them out.

Snapchat can be a great investment for brands seeking to engage a younger audience. Connecting with them is quick, fun and personal. All things a younger audience will appreciate. It’s also inexpensive and when done right can produce big results.

The only real downside to Snapchat marketing is that the audience may be limited depending on your customer base. Right now, there are better ways to reach the 35 and older audience. We’ve said if already, but successful Snapchat marketing really is about knowing who you are and who your audience is. Once you know those things, it’s as simple as getting a little creative with your snaps and watching their disappearing act work magic for your brand.