Snapchat and the Move Offline
Rambling thoughts ahead…
Last week, Snap released their new hardware product, the Spectacles, in the one of the coolest and most retro ways I’ve seen. Many other people have touched upon how / why Snapchat needed to do this and why it was executed upon so well so I’ll skip over that part.
What I’m interested in is understanding the evolution of a mobile-native company → a camera company → camera company that recognizes the impact of an offline presence (despite its current transient nature). We’ve seen other companies do this — Warby Parker, Bonobos, Rent the Runway etc. with retail stores that are meant to complement their e-commerce sites.
E-commerce & other new electronic hardware companies have interesting times ahead of time. There is no question on the advantages that online sales allows in terms of reaching scale, lower opex etc. What is interesting is whether or not the lack of specialized customer service / “specialness” that occurs with an online purchase will put a limit on the growth prospect of selling purely online vs more of a combo approach.
For commodity / soon to be commoditized electronics , I would imagine this doesn’t matter (anything from the eBay $1.99 cellphone charger to a $2K laptop). But there are some products that are vastly improved by the ability to try them in person — eyeglasses, cars, etc.
I think an interesting place to see this play out will be in the VR world. Imagine Apple with its own VR (maybe, not too far away?) Despite Apple’s late start to the game, I think that the existence of Apple stores will essentially allow Apple to jump over and beat out any existing the other players. The ability to experience an VR/AR experience in person is going to be required to get the average consumer onboard the train. And when it comes to providing that type of experience, Apple does not have any peers.
Of course, all this assumes that drones don’t take over the world, allow for instant delivery including trying on things right from the comfort of your home / office w/instant returns.