- On Tuesday, messaging app Kik launched a chatbot store, Kik Bot Shop, that will allow users to download app-like bots that directly connect them to brands, according to Ad Week.
- Kik users can download a variety of bots in the app across three categories: entertainment, lifestyle, and games. Brands that wish to create their own bots can access the platform through Kik's open API.
- Sephora and H&M are currently the only retailers on the platform.
The timing of Kik's launch suggests that chatbots may be the next big thing to connect brands to consumers: Facebook is expected to launch a bot store next week, while Microsoft announced plans to build a framework for developers looking to create their own chatbots last week.
Messaging apps have grown in stature and importance in the past couple years, especially in international markets. According to research from App Annie, messaging apps are the most used type of app in the U.K., Germany, Japan, and South Korea. In China, 91% of internet users use messaging apps. Only the U.S. varies from this norm, according to the report, with social apps taking the top spot. eMarketer predicts that 49% of U.S. mobile phone users will use mobile messaging apps by the end of 2016.
"Messengers are the new browser and bots are the new websites," Kik's head of messenger services Mike Roberts told Adweek.
Sephora and H&M are giving retailers a peek into what chatbots can do for retailers on messaging apps, especially when it comes to reaching millennials on mobile devices. Sephora's bot gives users tips, video clips, and tutorials for applying makeup and fixing their hair, while H&M employs a "personal stylist" bot to help users craft outfits. Once a shirt or lipstick shade piques a user's interest, both retailers allow purchases directly through the chatbots.
These types of interactions could help retailers build trust and loyalty, especially among the famously-fickle millennial and Gen Z demographic groups. Kik currently has 275 million users, and 40% of them are U.S. teens, according to Ad Week. The option to purchase directly with chatbots could eliminate unnecessary steps in the path to purchase: Instead of clicking a button and having to order through a retailer's mobile site, customers can go place orders in the app. That could facilitate impulse buys and potentially lower the chance that customers abandon their shopping carts due to an overly-complicated ordering process.
The experiences offered to shoppers using the bots are similar to those offered in retailers' apps—for instance, Sephora already offers "how to" videos on its iPad app. Providing these features through bots could help retailers reach customers that are either unaware of these features on their mobile app or don't have space on their phones to download it. Smartphone users typically limit the number of apps to their phone to fewer than 30, and spend most of their time on social networking and messaging apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Kik. Bundling bots in one messaging app with a wide audience could help retailers reach users that otherwise would not have downloaded their standalone app.