Mobile Commerce

Why Don’t Consumers Just Text Retailers Their Questions?

Though there are more ways to interact on the Internet than time to count them all, retailers and consumers usually only connect through social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. However, one startup in India is proving that more direct methods can work just as well, if not better.

TechCrunch reported that Lookup, an India-based startup that lets retailers and consumers chat with each other through direct messaging, has scored $2.5 million in Series A funding. Founded at the tail end of 2014, Lookup already has 1.2 million registered users despite only listing merchants from the Indian cities of Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. CEO Deepak Ravindran told TechCrunch that chats are an increasingly popular mode of communication among consumers, but Lookup provides better security than other apps.

“Chat is eating the world,” Ravindran said. “WhatsApp has penetrated India quite successfully, but it has limitations: you need to have people’s phone numbers, and there’s a privacy issue around giving out your number.”

Instead of connecting users through phone numbers, Lookup instead uses Google Maps to give users a view of all the retailers in their area. If retailers set up accounts with Lookup, they’ll be able to chat with customers who message them, with bots handling basic inquiries like store hours and product availability.

Lookup currently has no monetization policy in place — it costs nothing for users to download it and for retailers to list themselves — but Ravindran explained that the company may add integrated payments services in the indeterminate future. Lookup would take a cut of all purchases made through the app.

Ravindran’s immediate plans are to expand Lookup to at least 10 Indian cities before the end of the year. Lookup also has a goal of adding 250,000 more merchants to its list of participating businesses.

If only there was a way to text them.

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