Snap (NYSE:SNAP) may have been one of the most highly anticipated IPOs of 2017, but just months after coming public, the vanishing-message platform has already seen its popularity evaporate with investors. The likely reason is that it's apparent Snapchat's high-growth days are over. Here's why.
1. Daily user growth is declining.
Any company reporting user growth rising 36% would typically be lauded, but Snap's first quarterly earnings report as a publicly traded company was seen as a bellwether of how its customer engagement was progressing, and it failed to impress. That's because Snap's fourth-quarter growth came in at 48%, and it was at 63% in the third quarter. In fact, a year ago, Snap's user growth rate was almost 53%. Growth is decelerating, and it's clear the messaging platform is well on its way to a plateau.
No company can grow forever at the torrid pace Snap had originally set when it burst on the scene, doubling, tripling, even quadrupling the number of users, but that means there are only so many people left that will or can use the app.
2. That's led to discounting to attract advertisers.
Soon after the quarterly earnings report, ad agency executives leaked that Snapchat was offering limited-time incentives to encourage brands and media buyers to feature their companies on the platform. While there could be benign reasons for having a sale, because its revenue numbers came in short of expectations in the first quarter, the move sparked concern the second quarter was going to even worse since the opportunity closed mid-June, suggesting Snap needed to bolster its numbers.
3. Instagram is doing Stories better.
Snap's woes began almost immediately after rival Instagram began adding Stories to its platform. Instagram Stories hit 200 million users in April, surpassing Snap's 166 million users. Now Instagram Stories is up to 250 million users, and there doesn't seem to be any way Snap will post that kind of growth to keep pace.
While Snap might be innovative in that it's coming up with some great ideas to allow users to make greater use of its service, Instagram basically comes in and copies everything it does -- and apparently does it better or in a way users find more functional and fun. In addition to Stories, Instagram copied Pinning, which allows users to put stickers on images and videos, and Scissors, which lets you crop some part of an image.
4. Facebook is copying it, too.
Since Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) owns Instagram, it's not surprising that a number of the capabilities the picture-sharing platform is copying would also filter up to its parent. Facebook's app and Messenger service also allow selfie masks like Snap, and previously it added Stories to its service, too. It's also added similar features to its WhatsApp app.
5. It just added a creepy feature to its app.
While billed as being useful for seeing where your friends are and what they're doing in real time, Snap's new Snap Map is really just creepy, as it automatically broadcasts your location as soon as you open up the app. Letting friends know you're checking in at an event is one thing; telling everyone where you are every time you access Snap is another.
Furthermore, while many other platforms and devices have location-finding features, they haven't been game-changers for them and it's likely not going to be anything special for Snap, either.
6. Does it really need a drone business?
Snap bought drone start-up Ctrl Me Robotics, which some believe will enable it to allow Snapchat users to take aerial selfies as well as become an equipment maker -- not just software. That's an interesting way to expand a business, but one that wasn't necessarily needed. It also puts it into competition with bigger, better drone makers like DJI.
Snap also bought an emoji company and one that makes 3D selfies. It also developed Spectacles, glasses that double as a camera. While it may use these different technologies in interesting ways, the key will be whether they can generate any meaningful revenue for the company, something that has yet to occur. They're also being made while the company is still a long way away from profitability and seeing user growth slow.
7. It can't decide what it wants to be.
It's a selfie app! It's a social networking platform! It's a camera company! All those acquisitions it weren't necessarily to help you take more and better selfies, but rather to help it become a "camera company." The 3D selfie technology, for example, uses the phone's camera and processing power to create 3D models rather than a cloud-based source. The drone purchase will possibly put a user's cell phone in the sky to take pictures.
While the change in focus means GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) investors should probably be worried they have a new competitor, Snap investors should be concerned their company can't figure out what it wants to be. They bought a social networking platform that now is a camera maker and is heading into a market that's already dense with competition.