Viber acquires Chatter Commerce which offers a keyboard app for iOS called Shopchat. Shopchat integrates shopping features via its keyboard into, for example, messaging apps. (This works in every iOS app.)
Rakuten, which bought the messaging app Viber for $900 million in 2014, was also the lead investor in the company’s $1 million seed funding round.
Founded out of San Francisco in 2016, ShopChat is a downloadable iOS app that replaces your device’s default keyboard app and works across all major messaging apps, including WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger. Through the keyboard, users — possibly shopaholics — have direct access to shopping inventory from major retailers and can easily search for and share products with friends.
ShopChat also offers a white-label product that third-party apps can integrate directly into their own services via an API.
From the press release:
Rakuten Viber is taking bold steps towards reinventing mobile commerce by giving users the ability to shop directly within their chats, recognizing that shopping is a traditionally social activity. Instant Shopping has brought Viber users an in-chat shopping experience that allows them to shop online with the people they would otherwise go to the store with – giving them the ability to search, share and discuss items, and even communicate directly with their favorite brands.
Chatter Commerce’s team of seven engineers based in San Francisco will become a part of the Rakuten Viber team. Zephrin Lasker, CEO and Co-Founder of Chatter Commerce will become Global Head of E-commerce at Rakuten Viber. In his role, Lasker will steer the company’s global mobile commerce strategy, focusing on expansion into new markets, as well as exploring more technologies that will boost the Viber experience even further.
In march, the company put the reasoning behind the shopping keyboard app in a blog post like this:
People now spend more time on messaging than any other platform (even social media). Many companies are pursuing robot assistant chatbots to interact with people on messaging. These efforts have been disappointing. While chatbots have certain sensible use cases, ShopChat is proving that people don’t want to talk to bots — they want to talk to one another. Robots are good at some things — but the advice and reaction of a friend is inimitable by a machine — and likely will be for some time, if not forever. And this raises an even larger question — if we were to eventually able to chat with bots instead of friends for advice, what’s the point? Are we building for the machines, or for each other? We love technology at ShopChat, but we love it most for what it can do for people, not the other way around.
Nearly 70 percent of Shopchat’s users are under 24, the company said, and “overwhelmingly female”.
Viber hasn’t really evolved since Rakuten bought it in 2014. Techcrunch:
the company may have its roots as a pure-play messaging service, but ever since it was acquired by Rakuten — known as the Amazon of Japan — in 2014, I have been watching it to see when and how it would finally take the plunge into commerce.
It’s been a long time coming — three whole years — and feels a little like a defensive move, as if the company has been kicked into gear by opening moves from Facebook and others.
My guess is that Viber’s slow pace of development overall hasn’t done it any favors.
Viber stopped updating its metrics years ago and today simply describes its size as “800+ million users”, so it’s hard to know how popular it is these days compared to WhatsApp and Messenger (both owned by Facebook) with 2 billion users between them; and the myriad of other popular messaging apps out there today, which include WeChat, Line, Kik, and so many more.
And so, the move today could be an interesting sign of how the company, under new CEO Djamel Agaoua, who joined earlier this year, is working hard to position itself as a serious player once again in the messaging space.
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