Nov 10, 2017
Millennials who bought into Snap's IPO are frustrated, but have ideas on how to fix the company
Some young Snap investors who are also users are growing wary of the company's potential.
It's been a rough ride for Snap — and now some of its investor-users are losing faith.
When Snap went public in March, free stock-trading platform Robinhood had one of its highest activity levels ever. More than 40 percent of traders that day, who are mostly between 18 and 24, bought Snap, Robinhood said at the time.
Now Snap is the eighth most-held stock on the platform. Interest is waning, with only two percent more buying than selling activity during the lead up to Snap's Q3 2017 earnings report on Tuesday. For comparison, buying was 20 percent higher than selling right before last quarter's report, Robinhood said.
CNBC spoke to several users who bought Snap stock about what they think of the company and what needs to change. Here's what they think:
Market Spectacles better
Yonatan, a 28-year-old who made a profit on Snap by buying it and selling it twice, won't be investing again until it makes a move to "even minimally reassure me that they're not the next Vine." (He asked that his last name be withheld for privacy reasons.)
One of Snap's biggest mistakes was not advertising its glasses correctly, he said.
If there had been more Spectacles ads on Snapchat and an easy way to buy it on the app, Yonatan thinks sales would have increased — especially if Snap had released them over the summer.
"(It's) a 2-for-1, summer shades and a way to record freehand," he said. "Furthermore, this is when people are gearing up for trips and festivals, social outings and engagements. They should've pushed the product in early May/June. Had they done this, I promise you they wouldn't be sitting on as much inventory as they are now. Winter is coming. There's no real demand for glasses in the winter."
Another strategy would be to limit where to buy Spectacles permanently, said 27-year-old Brian Zhang. He made $1,500 on Snap by buying 800 shares and selling in May. Zhang decided to get out after the company missed estimates on its first-quarter revenue, earnings per share and user growth.
Snap started with a limited-release model but then made it too available, he said. Had it made fewer Spectacles and made them harder to find, it could have created artificial demand.
"I think people would be interested (if they were exclusive)," Zhang said. "Now they are everywhere, you can get it from Amazon and you can get it from Snapchat."
Improve photo and video quality
Snap's photos used to be similar to what you could produce with your phone's camera, but the differences are becoming stark.
"As camera phones keep getting better and better, I think the appeal of Snap will wear off if it still takes grainy photos," said Christopher Smith, who's in his mid-30s.
Smith lost a couple hundred dollars on his Snap investment after buying and selling around the IPO. He isn't interested in purchasing stock again.
Let users go live
Snap is supposed to be about capturing what's happening in the moment, but it doesn't have a live option, said 45-year-old Shan Williams. (Williams is not a millennial but uses the product daily.)
He notes you can take photos, post videos and live video chat with friends, but you can't stream live to your Snap followers. You can do that on Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and Twitter Periscope.
Williams purchased 100 Snap shares the day it went public. He'll sell when he breaks even.
"I thought Snap would be like Facebook in the way it has performed, but it's not and I'm not sure if I should hold or just sell?" he said. "That's the tough part. I don't see Snap 'going away' but I have yet to see the growth. Tough call. I obviously don't enjoy watching it decline."
Williams also agreed that Snap could do a better job on image quality. He finds himself uploading photos from his camera roll to Snapchat in order to send snaps because the quality is better.
Charge more for custom filters
Snap users can create custom filters for events. With wedding spending so high, Yonatan wondered why Snap doesn't charge more for the feature. His cousin paid less than $20 for their wedding filter in Seattle. Another wedding geofilter bought for 12 hours in New York cost $36.
"If it's any event where you know people are willing to go broke on, it's weddings," Yonatan said. "So in short, they should charge more for bigger events that they know for which their price won't even be a second thought. The bride and groom have bigger things to worry about than a $100 filter."
Make the products easier to use
If you use the app all the time it's easy to keep up with the changes, Zhang explained. But it's hard for older users to memorize the pinching and swiping motions to use the app.
"It's hard for new users to jump in, like my mother," he said. "She tried it for a day, and gave up because the UI (user interface) is not so intuitive."
Zhang noted he has an iPhone, but the app doesn't work as well for Android users. Snap said during its latest earnings report that it is working on improving its Android experience. If it does, Zhang thinks the company will add users in regions where Android phones are more common, such as India.
But even Smith, who uses Snapchat, finds it difficult.
"(Snapchat), at least to me, is not exactly user-friendly," Smith said. "Sometimes I have to remind myself how to get to certain areas that aren't just a left or right swipe."
Snap is addressing this issue by revamping its app, reportedly in December. The new version will have a feed inspired by Twitter and Facebook.
Still, it may be too late for people who have already migrated to Instagram. Smith said he checks Snapchat every few days but has migrated mostly to Instagram Stories. He already uses Instagram and more of his friends are there. Plus, a lot of people are uploading their snaps on Instagram Stories anyway.
"I really can't be bothered to go into Snapchat to watch the daily stories," he said. "I just went in to look at Snap stories, and there's loads of advertisements that overtake the screen, which just looks like the tabloids when you are in the grocery store."