Chat till you shop

You can get virtually anything you want from Amazon. The company that once sold books now sells everything from bananas to movie downloads.

But there are gaps. You can’t get a messaging app from the e-commerce giant, for example. 

Oh, hang on a minute, that might be wrong.

As we referenced on the blog recently, reports suggest Amazon is now working on a chat product called Anytime. A site called AFTV News revealed the internal project.

It says Amazon has been testing customer response to a new Amazon messaging app, which seems to be an ambitious mix of messaging, social media and commerce.

Amazon Anytime will apparently support voice and video calls, photo sharing, SnapChat-style filters, mini games, music streaming and shopping. It will also let users encrypt messages a la Telegram.

Perhaps the news is unsurprising. Communications apps are overwhelmingly popular with users. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have over 1 billion users each. WeChat has over 900 million. And Apple says iMessage is the most used app on iPhones.

Obviously, Amazon now wants a piece. Like all the big digital players, Amazon is wary of letting other big companies (with their own agendas) sit in the middle of its transactions with customers. That’s why it launched its own devices – some successful (Echo, Kindle), some not (Fire phone).

An Amazon Anytime app would keep its customers close. And, obviously, this would give Amazon the chance to sell them more stuff. 

In fact, there is a direct precedent for this mix of messaging and shopping.

In the past few days Ratuken (often called the Amazon of Japan) bought an Israeli startup called Chatter Commerce. Easy to see why. Ratuken owns chat app Viber, which has already worked with Chatter Commerce on a project to insert shopping items into chat sessions.

So maybe this is where Amazon wants to take Amazon Anytime. You could be chatting to a friend about an item you like and then do a search inside the app to reveal it. Or the app’s algorithms could generate items based on the subject of your conversation.

And the shopping could even go ‘real world’. WeChat, China’s all-conquering messaging app, handles millions of transactions through QR codes, which user snap when they are out and about. 

Of course. Amazon will have huge competition Amazon Anytime if it wants to do any of this in the West. Facebook and Apple are already experimenting with payments inside their messaging apps. And although this is more about P2P transfers (i.e. paying small sums to your friends) than shopping, their projects could easily end up there. 

And then there are a large number of niche messaging apps in the market. There will always be communities that want their own discrete products. Smart developers find them.