Rakuten Viber, maker of the Viber messaging app, acquired Chatter Commerce, a startup that created what was described as the first keyboard for mobile commerce, as part of a plan to let users make purchases directly within chats.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition follows a four month launch period for Viber’s ‘Instant Shopping’ feature in the US, which Chatter Commerce helped build. It is an “in-chat shopping experience” that allows users to shop with friends by letting them search, share and discuss items from the app, as well as communicate directly with brands.
Some 30 per cent of Viber users in the US have used the feature since its launch in March 2017, the firm said. E-commerce giant Rakuten invested in Chatter Commerce and its ShopChat technology during an earlier round of funding.
Rakuten Viber said it is “taking bold steps towards reinventing mobile commerce by giving users the ability to shop directly within their chats”.
Zephrin Lasker, Chatter Commerce’s CEO, said Rakuten Viber’s “innovative vision extends beyond the minor details of feature optimisation that most messaging apps are focused on today”, and its “objective is to dramatically expand the role messaging apps have in people’s everyday lives”.
Chatter Commerce’s team of seven engineers, based in San Francisco, will become a part of the Rakuten Viber team. Lasker will become global head of e-commerce where he will focus on expanding into new markets.
“This investment is a new step in our journey to transform Viber into a multi-service communication platform. We want to bring more value to our hundreds of millions of users around the world while keeping the experience simple and seamless,” says Djamel Agaoua, CEO of Rakuten Viber.
Adding shopping features into messaging products could be a way for companies to monetise apps. It was reported recently that Amazon may be working on a consumer-focused messaging app, in which shopping could be a key feature. Facebook too has been adding transactional features into Messenger.