Back in 2018, when Snap ($SNAP) was trading around $5 and failing to grow its user base, CEO Evan Spiegel responded to concerns with a ‘trust the process’ mentality, focusing on the long game rather than immediate gains. It worked for the Sixers (barring recent seasons), and it’s working for Snap.

Yesterday, Snap stock reached a record high of $70.45. It climbed 11% after the social media company forecast revenue growth of 50% or more for the next several years, driven by investments in interactive advertising and new plans in augmented reality.

Snap has grown over the past couple years in more ways than one. In the most recent quarter, daily Snapchat users rebounded 22%, while revenue growth hit 62%, up from 36% at the end of 2018.

In 2018, Snap’s job listings count dropped as low as 95 openings. The company now counts 327 listings, a 244% increase.

The future of AR and E-commerce

Snap saw surging popularity during pandemic lockdowns last year, as more advertisers tapped its AR tools, which allow companies to create branded filters and let users virtually try on products. Last April, web traffic for hit an all-time peak with an average of 31.8 million weekly pageviews.

“It is augmented reality that is driving our future,” Spiegel said. “We are doubling down on this strategy in 2021.”

Snap got a head start in AR as the first big social media company to introduce geofilters and real-time face detection photo effects, back when cartoon puppy ears on a selfie felt novel. More than 75% of Snapchat users engage with its augmented reality features every day, according to Snap’s Q1 2020 report.

"Augmented reality has evolved from something fun and entertaining into a utility," Spiegel said. "Our camera can solve math equations; scan wine labels to find ratings, reviews and prices; tell you the name of the song you're listening to; and so much more." He also mentioned AR’s opportunities in e-commerce and expanding Snapchat’s beauty and makeup AR functionality.

Spiegel’s co-founder Bobby Murphy added that AR "allows us to render digital experiences directly into physical space and to use the camera as an input to access information and content far faster than keyboards can ever allow."

Meanwhile, Facebook’s ($FB) Oculus dominates the VR space and Apple ($AAPL) is working on its much-anticipated AR glasses.

Will Snap reach profitability in 2021?

Snap still isn’t profitable, but CFO Derek Anderson said the company is aiming for profitability on an adjusted basis in 2021. As The Information pointed out, the company’s total revenue last year, $2.5 billion, was 50% smaller than Twitter’s ($TWTR) and a tiny fraction of Facebook’s. Still, investors are betting on Snap. Its market capitalization of $103 billion is 40% bigger than Twitter’s. Snap is on a sustainable path. Daily Snapchat users grew 22% from 2020 to 265 million. Facebook's daily users across its apps increased by just 15% during the same period.

Snapchat’s new TikTok ($PRIVATE:BYTEDANCE) rival feature Spotlight counted roughly 100 million users in January and over 175,000 video submissions per day. The company is paying about $1 million per day to users who submit viral Spotlight videos to build engagement and attract creators. Spotlight does not yet have ads, but the ongoing fight for creators — TikTok and YouTube have their own creator funds and programs, and YouTube and Instagram have their own TikTok features — could be fertile ground for Snap.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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