Exclusive: Snapchat’s CEO reveals new app features, discusses rapid MENA growth

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With a reach of around 75 million in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), multimedia messaging app Snapchat is growing rapidly across the region.

Based on a recent study released by its parent company, Snap Inc. the consumption rate of Snapchat in the MENA is often higher than the global average, with over 85 percent of the region’s daily users using the app’s Lenses every day. The region’s ‘Snapchat Generation’ was found to place tremendous value on their connections with family and friends, using communication and camera app tools to keep these relationships strong.

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“The Middle East was one of the first places we saw a real evolution of [Snapchat] stories into almost broadcast-like shows. I remember in the very early days, folks having their own weather shows, for example, on stories and that actually inspired a lot of our thinking about how stories could evolve as a format,” Snap Inc. Founder and CEO Evan Spiegel told Al Arabiya English.

“What really excited me about visiting the Middle East was being able to see how stories were just evolving so quickly based on the way that community uses them.”

The camera company and social media platform Snapchat launched a series of new app features at Snap Partners Summit 2021 on Thursday and Friday.

Here’s everything you need to know about Snapchat’s new features.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Snapchat has now added new shopping features and capabilities for brands and users alike. Screenshop for e-commerce, an already existing feature, now includes a scanner that users can access via their home screens, enabling them to scan items which will then give them recommendations and extra information.

Snapchat's Lego Connected Lenses. (Supplied)
Snapchat's Lego Connected Lenses. (Supplied)

When a fashion item is scanned the software recognizes the garment and in turn can provide several recommendations from a variety of brands offering a similar outfit. This feature has been added to the pre-existing scanner’s capabilities which previously enabled users to scan and identify plants, dog breeds, car models, and songs, among others.

This AR offering also includes try-on upgrades, ‘wrist-tracking’ and ‘True Size’ technologies, enabling users to try on clothes, watches, accessories, and eyewear, plus identify their sizing accurately.

Snapchat's new e-commerce offering for 'wrist-tracking', showcasing a Piaget watch through AR technology. (Supplied)
Snapchat's new e-commerce offering for 'wrist-tracking', showcasing a Piaget watch through AR technology. (Supplied)

“I’m really excited about the evolution of our augmented reality platform, I think, not only in terms of the way that we have been able to extend our AR products into other people’s services and businesses and I think people are seeing that when they integrate our camera, they see a lot of increase in engagement so it’s been great that our AR has been able to help make other people’s businesses successful,” said Spiegel, adding that Snap will focus on developing tools in this space given the positive impact that it has had on e-commerce and the environment.

A new take on e-commerce

Snapchat’s partners are now able to establish a permanent presence on the app to showcase their AR Lenses and stories along with items for sale through the ‘Shop’ page, enabling users to browse and buy.

Snapchat's Screenshop offering. (Supplied)
Snapchat's Screenshop offering. (Supplied)

The application programming interface (API)-powered lenses, a new feature introduced in collaboration with some of its partners, allows consumers access to product catalogs and other brand information which will provide them with real-time pricing updates or information such as sports games scores and stats.

Monetizing user-generated content (for creators)

Snapchat has now launched an array of features to help users monetize content they themselves create on the app.

“We’ve always seen people making really funny videos on Snapchat, but then they have to go and post them on Twitter or Facebook to make them go viral. It was always so frustrating for us to see that these really funny videos people were making with Snapchat were just getting distributed somewhere else and so I think for the first time, we have a way for people to take all the amazing things that are making on Snapchat, and actually have them distributed through Snapchat to a really big audience,” Spiegel said.

Users can produce their own content on a platform with a wide reach, and can send gifts to official ‘Snap Stars’ to kickstart conversations.

Snapchat's new 'gifting' feature. (Supplied)
Snapchat's new 'gifting' feature. (Supplied)

Gifts are received from interactive replies to stories and purchased in Snapchat Tokens. They are distributed to the content creator who receives a share of revenues generated from them.

“We’re really focused on further developing our creator community and providing more tools to creators. One of the things we announced at SPS this year is gifting for creators and I think that it’s a really fun way for people who are big fans of creators they follow to send a gift and prioritize their story reply to start a conversation,” he added.

Another new feature in the user-generated content space on Snapchat enables subscribers to upload videos on spotlight’s web version which will expand their reach further allowing people without Snapchat accounts to view the content produced.


On Tuesday, Snapchat launched its new entertainment platform, Spotlight, in the MENA region, revealing that it will allow its 75 million user base in the region to view the Snapchat community’s content that tailors itself to the user’s preferences and favorites, the company said.

Snapchatters can now submit their user-generated content onto the platform which is then moderated. Public comments are restricted to safeguard the wellbeing of its users, Snap Inc. stated.

When asked about Snapchat’s strategy for the rest of the year, Spiegel said, “We are going to remain focused on AR and that’s something we’re really excited about. We’re investing more there and we have more great things coming.”

“People really enjoy expressing themselves visually, whether that’s talking with their friends or sharing their stories. Our community in the Middle East is driving its own growth by expressing themselves on Snapchat by building lenses for their friends and so we’re grateful to be able to provide the tools to do all of that,” he added. “We’re just so grateful for our community and it’s been so fun to watch it grow.”

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