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Messaging app Viber adds a shopping feature

March 1, 2017 04:31 PM
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Messaging app Viber is adding a shopping function on March 6, giving its 800 million global users the ability to browse and share products from participating online retailers. To complete a purchase, consumers will be redirected to the retailer’s site.

Consumers in the Viber app can tap a shopping button to browse products from dozens of retailers that integrate with the app. Viber is launching with several brands, including Macy’s Inc., No. 6 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide; Zales (owned by Signet Jewelers Ltd., No. 122), Bloomingdale’s (part of Macy’s), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 4) and online marketplace Rakuten Inc., a Viber spokesman says. Viber is owned by Rakuten, Japan’s dominant online marketplace operator and the owner of several online shopping portals in other countries.

The shopping integration aims to make it easier for consumers to discuss a potential purchase within the app, a Viber spokesman says. Instead of a consumer having to leave the instant messaging app to share a link, image or screen shot of a product, she can tap the shopping icon on the chat screen, search for a product and send it in the chat. For example, a consumer chatting with her friend about what to wear to a party can tap on the shopping icon, taps on a retailer she wants to shop with, such as Macy’s, scroll through products and selects one. She can then tap “Share in chat” to get her friend’s advice.

A consumer can also tap the “Learn more” button next to the product, and that will link her to the retailer’s mobile site or app, a Viber spokesman says. If the shopper purchases the product, Viber will receive a commission on it, the spokesman says, who declined to reveal specifics.

Viber built the shopping platform in a few months, the spokesman says. This beta version is available only in the U.S. and will be deployed worldwide later this year, Viber says.

Viber is what’s known as an “over-the-top” communications app that allows consumers to send two-way communication like a text message via Wi-Fi instead of using data from a consumer’s wireless carrier. In the U.S., Viber is one of more popular over-the-top messaging apps, although Facebook Inc.’s Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik Interactive Inc. are more commonly used on Android smartphones than Viber, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb Ltd., which ranks apps via an algorithm that factors in current installations and active users within the past 28 days.

Viber isn’t the only communications app  adding to chat functionality. Kik, for example, announced in October that retailers can add chat bots to communicate with its users. A chat bot is interactive software that uses artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation. Retailers such as H&M, No. 77 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Europe 500, and Sephora USA Inc. (No. 129 in the Top 500), have launched a chat bot on Kik to communicate with consumers about beauty products.

In contrast, mobile messaging app TangoME Inc. in October 2015 shuttered the shopping portion of its chat app and instead is focusing on earning revenue through advertisements. Online marketplace eBay Inc. advertises on Tango.

 

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