Blurred lines: the changing eCommerce landscape P2

In this two-part series, learn about the 2017 trends we see re-shaping the eCommerce landscape and how they could affect your business. In Part 2, we look at the emergence of messaging platforms turned “everything” apps. These sophisticated hybrids are already taking hold in China and other parts of Southeast Asia. As their ubiquity grows, how can your company take advantage of the trend?

Social messaging apps meet eCommerce

If you’ve spent any time in China of late, you’ve probably become accustomed to using WeChat for, well … everything! The “swiss-army knife” of mobile apps started out as a messaging app but has now expanded to enable everything from sending money and making purchases, to booking doctors’ appointments and hailing a taxi. According to an Economist article, users are so attached to the platform that they claim leaving regions where the app is available is “akin to stepping back in time.”

So what does it mean for brands and advertisers? So far, TenCent, WeChat’s parent company, has been hesitant to allow brands to take advantage of the precise consumer targeting that such a platform could afford. However, based on its potential and users’ reactions to in-app advertising so far, we wouldn’t be surprised if that changed.

WeChat’s competitors in Southeast Asia include Hike Messenger, popular in India, and Viber, owned by Rakuten which is described as the “Amazon of Japan.” Viber includes a much more overt direct purchase function worth noting: e-commerce buttons display items to buy triggered by keywords in users’ conversations.

Hike (whose visual style looks eerily similar to another online communication network), on the other hand, introduced Hike Wallet just a couple months ago. With it, Hike has become the largest Unified Payment Interface or UPI-based platform in India. While direct in-app product purchases don’t seem to be currently available, the platform is ripe for eCommerce opportunity with the company’s recent acquisition of tech start-up Creo and heavy investment from WeChat owner TenCent. TechCrunch reports that “the Creo team will begin work on a developer platform to enable third-party developers to build services on the Hike platform.”

The West

What about consumers in the West? While WeChat and others will surely try for westward expansion, they may face competition from global behemoth Amazon, which looks intent on furthering its global domination. Word on the street, and inBusiness Insider, is that Amazon is looking to develop a messenger app, Amazon Anytime, which is reportedly: “designed to let people chat with text and video, send each other fun photos with filters, play games and engage with other Amazon services like music and food ordering (and other shopping), and interact with businesses.”

According to TechCrunch, a unique feature of the Anytime app, which would set it apart from its competitors, will be the ability to connect to others based on name alone, without needing to know their phone number. It wouldn’t be Amazon’s first foray into messaging as it’s owned Twitch Messenger, the standalone messaging app for gamers, since 2014.  

The future and app hybridisation 

We’ve now explored several trends in eCommerce (see article 1). If we’re reading the cards right, it seems like app hybrids for the on-demand economy may be the next big seismic shift in eCommerce. From social media and gaming merging with eCommerce platforms, to messenger apps merging with assistant/booking/payment, etc platforms, the future possibilities for cross-functional applications are infinite.

Speaking of hybrids, we’d be remiss if we didn’t here mention the recent Google Maps-Uber integration. Since early 2017, Google Maps has allowed travelers to link their Uber and Google accounts to hail and book Uber rides from directly within Google Maps.

What’s next? Will Amazon’s alleged Anytime become the WeChat of the West? And with the growth of ad blocking and sponsored-content fatigue, how can marketers and social media managers continue to engage audiences in a way that supports companies’ bottom line?

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch and give us your predictions, insights, and reactions!