Viber nabs ‘shopping keyboard’, you’ll be buying things in-app soon

20 Jul 2017

Viber. Image: Hamik/Shutterstock

One of a few key trends in social media tools is in-app shopping, with Viber the latest to get involved after buying Chatter Commerce.

There appears to be two key trends in social media at the moment, when looking from the top down.

  • Copy whatever Snapchat is doing
  • Start selling products within your app

Israeli instant messaging tool Viber has so far swayed away from the former, even as Facebook throws half of its efforts that way.

However, it’s fully embracing the latter, which is home to Facebook’s other half.

Instant shopping

Not long ago, Viber began integrating an ‘instant shopping’ feature, in what was the company’s toe-dipping into the soon-to-be-bulging world of conversational commerce.

Now, liking what it sees, Viber owner Rakuten has bought up the company that provided the keyboard for the instant shopping tool, Chatter Commerce.

The deal gives Rakuten total control over the keyboard, which will allow users to browse products without leaving the app, sharing items with friends and purchasing all within Viber.

TechCrunch reports that Chatter Commerce’s ties with Rakuten have been in place for a while, with the latter having already put $1.25m into the e-commerce tool in the past.

“We founded Chatter Commerce on the basis that people should be able to do much more in their chats than what is currently available,” said Zephrin Lasker, Chatter Commerce’s CEO and co-founder.

“Rakuten Viber’s innovative vision extends beyond the minor details of feature optimisation that most messaging apps are focused on today. Their objective is to dramatically expand the role messaging apps have in people’s everyday lives.”

This is all part of a growing shift.

China to the world

2016 was the beginning of what is known as conversational commerce branching out of China, where it has long been established through the immensely successful WeChat.

Google, Oracle and Amazon, for example, made a series of acquisitions throughout last year, all with a view to allowing businesses to sell to customers directly through their own media.

That has continued into 2017 and, if anything, it is speeding up.

Along with Viber’s deal this week, Plynk, an Irish payments start-up, has burst onto the scene with one of Ireland’s largest ever Series A funding rounds.

Linked to users’ Facebook accounts, Plynk lets people send money via message to a single contact or in group chats, instantly and with no fees.

Once a Plynk account is created, users receive a dedicated IBAN and virtual Mastercard for online payments. In future, the company wants to integrate Apple and Android Pay.

This, in its simplest form, is conversational commerce.

Viber. Image: dennizn/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic