Chapter I – The Bot revolution has arrived: Will messaging apps turn into m-shops?
With a large number of active users spread across the world, messaging apps are slowly emerging as one of the most promising platforms for m-commerce. According to a study conducted by the global research firm TNS, almost 55% of global internet users are highly active on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and the popular China-based messaging app, WeChat.
The user segregation of messaging services in the Asia-Pacific market and Western market clearly highlights the significance of these apps.
Messaging Apps are turning into m-shops
With millions of live user conversations and the inclusion of additional functionalities within these chat platforms, messaging apps have stepped into a new phase of transition.
The recent trend of messaging apps embracing the ‘bots’ feature is a clear indication of that.
Today, messaging apps like Facebook, Telegram, Kik, Line and WeChat have moved beyond their primary role of serving as a communication medium. They are exploring other avenues that help them function as marketplaces that connect brands and end users.
Bots on Facebook Messenger
Very recently, Facebook made an announcement about new tools for developers to build Bots inside the Facebook Messenger through the integration of artificial intelligence and human intervention. This will be done through an API that allows developers to build chat bots for Messenger and chat widgets for the web.
In fact, Facebook is providing developers with a choice to either build their own bots or get it assembled through Facebook’s own partners.
Through this move, Facebook plans to open up its messenger platform to brands which can use its own chatbots to offer an instantaneous experience to their audience through an automated customer support approach. By creating an expansive ecosystem for businesses on its Messenger platform, Facebook can actually change the way we shop on mobile.
Chatbots intend to function just like online sales representatives for brands and if programmed successfully, they can drive transactions through simple one-to-one communication. In fact, bots need not be ordinary text messages and can include images with specific links or call to action buttons.
Other messaging apps with bot stores
The bot uprising has caught up with most of the popular messaging apps.
This Canada-based company is one of the most popular chat apps amongst the youth. According to Kik, almost 70 per cent of its 275 million users are from the 13-24 age-group and this messaging app is one of the front-runners when it comes to embracing AI-driven bot technology. In fact, this chatting app had already opened up its platform to selected brands to develop broadcast bot accounts in order to interact with users through content suggestions way back in 2014. And very recently, it made an announcement about its new bot store for users and developers. This new store will facilitate brands and businesses to engage with their users through their own interactive bots. By leveraging its young demographic, Kik stands a good chance in developing a commercial edge and realising monetization opportunities.
Another messaging app that is not to be left in the dust in catching up with the bot revolution is Japan’s Line. After a host of popular messaging apps responded to Facebook’s interest in building bots for its Messenger, Line also announced its plans of allowing developers to build bots in March 2016. It plans to start things off with 10,000 ‘trial’ bots that will have limited access to 50 friends or 50 accounts they intend to engage with. Prior to this, Line had offered a bot type feature through official paid accounts for brands to foster interaction with users.
With a user base of 215 million users spread majorly around Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, Line is looking at innovative ways to monetize its services through the strategic addition of new features.
The China based app, WeChat has a big story to tell. With over 700 million monthly active users (MAUs) on-board and the robust integration of numerous services in one app, WeChat has positioned itself as a messaging app of a completely different league. Tencent, its holding company reported revenues to the tune of $4.7 billion in Q4.
In China, millions of businesses use WeChat to have a strong presence on mobile and interact with their target audience. The best thing about WeChat is that it isn’t just a messaging app; people use it for ordering food, booking a taxi or movie show and other such activities. All of this is done through embedded mobile websites inside the WeChat ecosystem rather than using chatbots to interact with people. So, instead of relying on typing specific keywords to complete a transaction on WeChat, users can simply tap through the app without having to download or register on another app.
Due to this end-to-end process facilitated by WeChat, most of the new businesses opt to launch their services on this app even without having an app of their own.
Tencent’s WeChat, is the perfect example of how a chat platform can create just the right environment for businesses to connect with people. It is one distinct app that has truly managed to capture the business and cultural essence of the People’s Republic of China in its business model. By focusing on customer experience and keeping ‘tradition’ at the heart of its promotion campaigns (read about WeChat’s red envelope feature), this messaging app has managed to shape its services to meet the everyday needs of its users.
No wonder western messaging apps are trying their best to become “the WeChat of the West”
Even though most of the popular messaging apps have stepped up their game by preparing their own bot-spaceships, which one will finally succeed?
Stay tuned to our next blog post for more insights on this topic!
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