Mobile Commerce

Another Messaging App Goes Contextual

Viber, a messaging app, announced on Thursday (Feb. 23) that it will start showing users items that are for sale based on the current chat.

According to a report in Tech Crunch, users of Viber have to opt in by pressing a shopping bag icon at the bottom of the screen. The feature is slated to go live on March 6 in the U.S. and will eventually be launched in other markets outside of the country. In its first iteration, the new shopping function will include a selection of items from categories such as electronics, fashion and home goods.

Viber, which is owned by Rakuten, will get its shopping items from Rakuten.com as well as from 30 other brands, one of which is Macy’s. Viber also plans to have a shopping feature that is focused on deals. In the first stage of the new feature, Viber customers won’t be able to make purchases directly from the messaging app, but that could come in the future.

“We will do purchasing in Viber eventually, but we decided to launch it this way to learn more about how it is used and to get it out there as soon as possible,” said Viber’s Chief Executive Djamel Agaoua in the report. “We are looking to transform Viber into a platform without turning to ‘stupid’ advertising.”

He went on to say that there are many formats available today that are intrusive and are not resonating with consumers. “We think that Viber is a natural place for commerce, whether it is shopping or booking restaurants. Every subject that you discuss with your friends, you should be able to get more information about it without leaving the app.”

Viber isn’t alone in offering more features in a messaging app. The report noted that Messenger, WeChat and Line have all been adding features to move their services beyond text and picture messaging.

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