Canada-based mobile messaging firm Kik opened its platform to third-party developers with the launch of a ‘Bot Shop’.

Kik describes a chat bot as an “automated conversation experience”. Conversations with chat bots are triggered by words stored in their databases relating to phrases and actions that the bot can send as responses.

“Bots provide a low-friction way of delivering fun, engaging and useful services through chat. Now anyone can build a bot for Kik, which has more than 275 million registered users,” the company said, adding that “approximately 40 per cent of US teens use the app”.

Kik’s Bot Shop will have three categories for now – entertainment, lifestyle, and games – and 16 bots, including Funny Or Die, H&M, Sephora, Vine and The Weather Channel.

Kik, launched in 2009, is partnering with Imperson, Massively, and Sequel, who will help developers and companies build bots. It is making available an API.

The idea is to improve user experience without the need to leave the app, explained Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik.

“We’ve been innovating in chat in the last few years and have found that the best results come from low-friction experiences that don’t hurt the simplicity of chat. Bots deliver that,” he said. The company added that “the time is ripe for chat bots”.

Kik will also release three new chat bots features: web bubbles (“wubbles”) for sharing rich media content in conversation threads; suggested responses to help speed text input; and a mention feature that allows bots to participate in conversation threads involving multiple parties, including groups.

In December, Kik acquired a startup called Blynk, maker of BlynkStyle, a personal fashion stylist app that is now a chat bot on Kik.

Facebook is set to unveil a bot for its Messenger app at its annual F8 developer conference, Financial Times reported.