Cloud-based e-commerce platform Shopify said Wednesday it is acquiring Kit CRM, a virtual marketing assistant that leverages messaging tools for retail marketing. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Founded in 2013, Kit helps brands manage marketing tasks, run targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram, post updates to Facebook Pages, and make recommendations based on store activities via text messages. Last month, Kit introduced an API that allows its software to interact with other apps in the Shopify App Store.
Shopify said the acquisition bolsters its focus on "conversational commerce," also the basis of chatbots—application-like software that can automate customer service tasks now offered via phone and e-mail, like receipts and shipping notifications.
With Facebook’s announcement this week of new chatbot features in its Messenger service, the era of interactive retail apps has officially arrived.
Shopify is the first commerce platform to announce an integration with Facebook Messenger, though for now Kit will remain a separate app. Still, the acquisition is a way for Shopify to further the wider imperative for “conversational commerce," said Shopify chief marketing officer Craig Miller.
“We believe messaging apps are the gateway for the internet on mobile, and conversational commerce represents a huge opportunity for Shopify,” Miller said in a statement. “Kit addresses a real pain point for merchants and is one of our most highly rated apps in the Shopify App Store. We look forward to having the Kit team join Shopify and help us define the future of conversational commerce together.”
Consumers these days expect to be able to shop on all channels, and these kinds of changes will likely set expectations for smooth interactions with brands on more channels, too. That will serve to accelerate the already customer-centric retail environment, but in a way that will work better for both retailers and consumers alike, experts told Retail Dive.
"It’s the beginning of the end of sitting on hold, the beginning of the end of 'Press one for this press to two for that,' the beginning of the end of 'This call may be recorded for quality purposes,'" Robert Stephens, co-founder of messaging startup Assist, told Retail Dive earlier this week.
Those kinds of changes will serve to accelerate the already customer-centric retail environment, but in a way that will work better for both retailers and consumers alike, experts say. In addition to offering infinitely superior to app and web interfaces, chatbots also will be much cheaper for retailers to develop, Stephens said.