Rakuten Viber is acquiring Chatter Commerce, the startup that created the ShopChat mobile commerce keyboard capability behind the Instant Shopping feature for the Viber messaging platform in the U.S. market, the company said in a press release.
The acquisition comes after a four month period during which the company discovered 30% of U.S. Viber messaging platform users used Instant Shopping.
Chatter Commerce’s team of seven San Francisco-based engineers will become a part of the Rakuten Viber team, with Zephrin Lasker, CEO and co-founder of Chatter Commerce, becoming global head of e-commerce. He will oversee the firm's global mobile commerce strategy, focusing on expansion into new markets and the development of new technologies.
This is one of those acquisitions that comes with little surprise, given that Rakuten has previously invested in Chatter Commerce, having led a $1.2 million funding round for the tiny company several months ago.
The acquisition comes about five months after Viber announced support for in-chat commerce for Macy’s customers. Media coverage at the time didn't refer to the in-chat commerce capability as Instant Shopping, but it certainly sounds like the very same feature, which enables sellers to market items to chat users based on their chats.
This is the latest mobile commerce move by Japan’s Rakuten, which acquired Viber back in 2014. Rakuten appears to be doing all it can to make the Viber messaging platform into a shopping platform as social networks and messaging platforms are increasingly playing a more integral role in shopping.
Most recently, Amazon announced a shoppable content feed available via mobile. Facebook has also enabled a chatbot army through its Messenger platform, and it continues to increase mobile commerce support, most recently by allowing marketers to upload videos into their ads to improve likelihood of product discovery. Instagram, Pinterest and others have also made significant strategic moves.