October 30, 2017
Just when we thought 2017 couldn’t get any worse for Snap, turns out Spectacles are a commercial flop.
Snap’s first attempt at creating a hardware product failed to excite customers past their initial purchase. Despite the initial hype, the company has sold only 150,000 pairs to date, and less than half of Spectacles owners kept using the camera-equipped sunglasses after just four weeks. Even worse, the company now has hundreds of thousands of unsold Spectacles both assembled and ready to be built gathering dust in Chinese warehouses.
Source: Pioneering OOH
What went terribly wrong? How did Snap overestimate the demand for Spectacles by such huge numbers?
Firstly, Spectacles were announced on September 24th 2016 in a Karl Lagerfeld photoshoot of Snap’s CEO Evan Spiegel donning the wearables. People believed the hype. People waited. In fact, they waited until November 10th for the first Snapbot vending machines to launch. While the hype cooled off a bit, demand was still huge and queues stretched down streets. This is the point at which things started going downhill. Whether their marketing department got stuck between exclusive and mass-retail strategies or they had production problems, somehow it took until February 20th for Specs to become available for online purchase.
Once people actually tried Spectacles, few kept wearing them, and doubtfulness about the product spread. Snap never got visionary video markers onboard, neither did it really ever invest in influencers.
Secondly, Spectacles retail at £129. And the biggest issue with this? Majority of users are teenagers. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager £129 was a fair chunk of money. And personally, they’re not the most attractive pair of sunglasses. Another setback is the limitation of only being able to record 30 seconds of video at once which is only paired to the Snapchat app (and not your camera roll which makes exporting your content that much more difficult).
Waiting five months after the first announcement was an eternity in the fast-moving teenage trend cycle. Specs lost their cool by the time they were buyable. The hype died off. Everyone had already seen the sunglasses and circular video all over the Internet, most owners had long since stopped using them, and few people wanted to buy after such a long wait. It took until June, 8 months after their debut, for Spectacles to become available in Europe.
When Spectacles debuted, Snapchat’s clone Instagram Stories had only just launched. But soon reaching over 250 million daily users, Instagram Stories grew bigger than Snapchat’s whole app that now has 173 million.
To drive demand, Snap needed to demonstrate all the creative possibilities that Spectacles had to offer, and the cool people who wore them. Yet at the time, it still had a very hands-off approach to dealing with celebrities and influencers. Priority should have been getting as many content creators familiar with the Specs and showing them how to use them. Instead of top Snappers constantly posting circular videos and encouraging fans to do the same, Snap effectively left the camera glasses die a slow and painful death.
So, while it’s a little sad that Spectacles seem to have failed as a new business venture, it seems like very few will mourn their passing.
However, Spectacles were a valiant effort as their first hardware product. But it was the wonky roll out, lack of promotion, and rising competition combined with their hardware problems that doomed Spectacles. Hopefully a second version will correct these mishaps. Snap already has a patent for an augmented reality version, and it’s shelved other product ideas like a drone.
If you are one of the ‘lucky’ few to own a pair of Spectacles, we’d love to hear about your experience and opinions on this gadget that could turn out to be the Betamax of social hardware.