This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, the BuzzFeed News newsletter about influencers and internet culture. You can sign up here. In our new column, Social Media Made Me Do It, we try a new trend, product, or tip from the feed.
Augmented reality filters are a major facet of social media lenses now, allowing us to do all sorts of things, like try on a new hair color, play an interactive game, or capture a gigantic Shrek in a latex bodysuit dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Love Game” in the sky.
But now, Snapchat has introduced a new function to its AR filters — shoppable lenses that let you “try on” items from different brands from home and buy them right in the app. So I went on a little augmented reality shopping spree.
The app is not exactly the most intuitive to use (products aren’t in one centralized place), but it works the way most social media filters do. Individual brands have created filters for specific items, so you need to search for the items and you can then hold up your phone and try them on as if you were in the store. The brands are huge ones you might look at IRL, like jackets from The North Face, handbags from Prada and Ralph Lauren, shoes from Lululemon and Puma, makeup at Ulta and MAC, and sunglasses from retailers like Zenni.
Not all the filters are created equal; some are just for trying on a single product, some you can swipe through with your hands to switch the colors or silhouettes, as if you’re dressing yourself like a Sim. Some of them just show the product from one angle, others offer a 360-degree view. Ulta’s filter was a comparison of different mascaras they sell to see what effect you prefer on your face. As someone who’s used a lot of mascaras, the filters didn’t always equate to what I knew to be the actual effect of the product, but it was fun to try out the different items without just picking up a product in the store and hoping for the best.
Clothing worked differently. All of the clothing items “fit” me, but I am a US size 4, or a small, and even some of the try-on filters were on the slimmer side. So I asked my colleague Paige Skinner, who is a size 10 and also loves to shop, to give the filters a go.
According to Paige, accessories such as the handbag and sunglasses fit her, but the North Face puffer jacket was too small on her. She found the filters vaguely helpful but doubted they would determine what she did and did not buy.
“I guess I would use that feature if I was interested in buying something, but I wouldn't base my purchase on it,” Paige told me. “It was nice seeing how big a bag is because that's always hard to tell on a website. But for shoes, I don't really need that feature, and not for a jacket either.”
If you’re an avid online shopper, some of these filters might be helpful to look at sizing and seeing the general fit before you hit checkout. But many of the garment filters seem to work best for smaller-sized people and might only be useful for a very select segment of the audience.
On the upside, you can shop with your mug of coffee right from home, and you don’t get that weird, aching mall fatigue from shopping in person.