Kik’s Bot Shop Hopes To Attract Brands – And Build Better Services For Users

botkikThe messenger app Kik, a chat service catering to teens, debuted its Bot Shop on Monday. The shop lets Kik users download chatbots – automated apps meant to simulate real conversation.

The shop currently features 16 bots from companies like Vine, H&M, Funny or Die, The Weather Channel and J-14 (a celebrity mag geared toward teens).

This isn’t the first time sponsored bots have appeared on Kik, but previously, Christian Baesler, president of J-14 parent Bauer Xcel Media, said that J-14 had to pay to promote its bot.

The new Bot Shop is meant to address these concerns, said Kik’s head of messenger, Mike Roberts. Because Kik hopes to build out its importance among brands and publishers (Roberts said he expects 10 to 20 times more brands to participate in the Bot Shop by the end of the year), organic discovery is crucial.

And while bots are free for users, Kik indicates that it will allow monetization opportunities for bot developers. In fact, Baesler is testing whether J-14’s early presence in the Bot Shop will drive immediate revenue.

Currently, J-14 sees revenue only from traffic that visits its branded bot, which simply adds to the audience numbers on J-14’s main site. But Baesler hopes for something more sophisticated: “It would be ideal for Kik to develop a virtual currency, so we could monetize quizzes or content offers on the platform.”

In fact, Kik is developing that virtual currency, though it only works with “Kik Points,” a bot built by Kik where users gain points by watching ads or converting on sponsored offers. Currently, those Kik Points can be traded in for things like sticker packs, but Kik wants to translate them into a way for media or marketers to earn revenue.

Other initial partners in Kik’s Bot Shop aren’t driven by immediate revenue concerns. Jason Sinnarajah, VP of business development at The Weather Channel, said his company’s bot, which answers weather-related questions, engages a new audience.

“Wherever people are looking for information about the weather, we want them exposed to our brand,” said Sinnarajah.

Kik has added new APIs designed to facilitate personalization – which a brand like The Weather Channel would some day like to allow offers based on things like snow forecasts to skiers or weather warnings based on location.

Kik’s goal is to have a vibrant community of services, following in the footsteps WeChat, which has shown that if you can connect users and entertainment/services on the messenger platform, the revenue opportunities will come.

Currently, messenger apps are strong on active users but struggle to add brand value. Facebook Messenger, for instance, is working with airlines to build out new booking and boarding processes via its chat interface.

Facebook Messenger – or any messenger service – doesn’t have to monetize ticket booking the way services like Expedia or Priceline traditionally have. If it can add value to both brands and users, the revenue will come (we hope).

Similarly, if H&M’s chatbot shows a user a sweater, and that user immediately clicks through to the site and makes a purchase, Kik doesn’t get a cut the way an affiliate linker or ecommerce network would.

“We want to help the industry understand how to build bots better,” said Roberts. “It isn’t just about our messenger service; it’s about brands and product managers feeling comfortable on chat platforms.”

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