Among the many interlinking pieces at Snap, mapping is an ongoing initiative. The thought is that social interaction is tied to the real world to a large degree. So if Snap can add layers of social relevance based on where you are (opted-in of course), it can deepen user connections and engagement.
This was partly behind Snap’s 2017 acquisition of Placed, which it subsequently divested for other reasons. And its since shown ample intent to carry the social mapping baton farther. Among other signals, Snap’s Alex Dao told us as much during Localogy 20/20, with Snap Map being the central focus.
As background, Snap Map geo-tags users and their Snaps on a map interface. 250 million Snapchatters are out and about using Snap Map to find each other. This includes an active Gen-Z-user base which has $323 billion in direct purchasing power and $1.2 trillion in indirect purchasing power, says Dao.
Building on the above, Snap Map continues to roll out new features for Snap Map. The latest came late last week when it launched “Layers.” It first teased this new mapping framework last May, which involve dynamically-activated map content that’s organized around specific themes and affinities.
Think of these layers as different data sets in the map that you can toggle on and off, depending on your interests. Layers will develop around things like Sushi or Irish Pubs. The thought is that this lets consumers organize their local discovery experience instead of crowding everything onto one map.
According to Snap, Layers will include content from partners in various verticals. For example, a Ticketmaster layer will highlight local events, while a layer from The Infatuation will signal trending local food items. Snapchat is also getting the ball rolling with two layers at launch: “Memories” and “Explore.”
Taking those one at a time, Memories will spotlight old snaps that you sent from particular places. This essentially geotags all your past snaps and pins them on a map. That can serve as a sort of social travel-log of past behavior that also inspires users to revisit local haunts and inspire real-world activity.
Meanwhile, the “Explore” layer features a heat map for local activity. So if there are any local spots that are trending, a color-coded system will signal that. This feature is meant to inspire local activities for users, based on what’s trending around them. You can also see if friends are nearby.
Layers can be accessed in the upper right menu of Snap Map. Users can toggle between available layers, which is a short list now but will populate over time. That will include Snap’s own layers, as well as partners it works with, as noted above. So utility and use cases will broaden over time.
Speaking of broadened use cases, the next likely play is a Layers API. This would let Snapchat scale up the creation of layers by crowdsourcing it to developers. That would also broaden the use cases to several points of interest, which in turn boosts Snap Maps’ engagement and user base.
The API approach would also let developers build their products into Snap Map — thus reaching the 250 million users noted above. This developer symbiosis is Snap’s playbook, seen in the way it scales AR lens development. Speaking of Lenses, Snap Map could increasingly integrate with Local Lenses.
For those unfamiliar, Local Lenses are the geo-relevant flavor of Snap/s signature selfie lenses. In this case, it utilizes the rear-facing camera to augment the broader canvas of the physical world. So Snap Map can help users discover places, while Local Lenses helps those places come alive.
And direct monetization is in the cards. Snapchat last year launched a new program that lets SMBs buy map-based promotions on Snap Map in a self-serve manner. Known as Promote Local Place it lets SMBs create promoted listings to drive foot traffic from Snap Map users. So all of these pieces tie together.
As Snap continues to execute this master plan, Snap Map could take share from Google Maps as a go-to local search and discovery tool. In fact, it has an edge on Google Maps given its social spin on local search. Finding things to do in the context of local friend activity has meaning to Gen-Zers.
Layers could also add targeted relevance and organization to the local discovery rituals of all ages. As noted, the bredth of that utility will develop over time. Meanwhile, Layers are available today through Snap Map on iOS and Android and we’ll watch closely to see where it goes next.