In case you missed it, Snapchat's Context Cards just launched us into the age of spontaneous search.
Search as we've known it for the past couple of decades has been all about premeditation. If you're hungry, you Google the local pizza place.
Admittedly, there's some spontaneity to that kind of search, too. If you read an article about fidget spinners, then you might Google that term and possibly buy one.
But the type of search that Snapchat's Context Cards offer is something new. Think of Context Cards as annotated Snaps. If you Snap from a local coffee place, then a Context Card might offer reviews and information on the cafe's location. Thanks to relationships with Uber and OpenTable, you can also book a ride or table from the Cards.
shows Context Cards in action: A friend sends a Snap featuring a short video of him about to eat a pancake at the (fictional) Sunny Cafe. The recipient then touches the screen to see 246 reviews and a map to the cafe's location.
Snap isn't charging for ads on Context Cards yet, but the company might do so in the future. For marketers, the Cards are a sign that there are new opportunities for mobile-based discovery.
How advertisers will be able to capitalize on Context Cards
In the future, Context Cards, along with visual search tools like Google Lens and smart glasses, will help surface all the opportunities presented to us in a given moment. This is a new type of media—somewhere between traditional search and word of mouth—so advertisers have to forge a new path to get in front of users. Here are a few ways they can do that:
Work with influencers: Inevitably, people with strong followings are going to be more valuable with spontaneous search. An influencer who Snaps at a new restaurant chain, for instance, could provide an instant boost that's worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars, in advertising, especially since followers won't need to take the extra step of looking up information about the chain. Pay attention to reviews: While good reviews can reinforce a consumer's decision to take a leap of faith about a new experience or product, bad reviews have the opposite effect. If you find that you have bad reviews, here's some good advice: Take ownership of what's wrong, use photos to counter unfair bad reviews and, of course, provide the best service and experience that you can to your customers. Offer deals: One way to make a stronger case for a spontaneous action or purchase is to sweeten the deal with a discount. You're more apt to check out that new coffee place, for instance, if they offer you a free coffee for mentioning the Context Card you saw. Consider how your brand could be part of an experience: For some brands, like Uber, this is a no-brainer. But others need to be more creative. Experiences don't have to just mean going out on the town. If you wash your car, then there's an opportunity for a car brand or Turtle Wax. If you're running a charity, then a 10K will provide entree for participants to Snap about it and offer information where others can learn and contribute.
In a way, spontaneous search harkens back to an earlier time before mass media, when local events were the primary marketing channel. Of course, Snapchat's reach makes even local events national or international, as well.
The reach, plus the opportunity to try what's being advertised immediately, make Context Cards noteworthy for advertisers. As this new medium takes off, it's time to be deliberate about spontaneous search.