Rakuten Viber acquired Chatter Commerce, the startup that created its comprehensive shopping keyboard that the popular instant messaging (IM) service introduced in early 2017. Neither party disclosed any financial specifics of the deal, though the transaction is believed to be a minor one from Rakuten Viber's perspective. The Japanese Internet giant previously invested $1.25 million in the startup and likely played a role in getting the firm to develop ShopChat, a technology powering Viber's Instant Shopping functionality. The solution is delivered in the form of a keyboard that's currently integrated into Viber, though it could theoretically be used as the basis for a shopping experience delivered through any other messaging app.
The seven San Francisco-based software engineers are joining Rakuten Viber from Chatter Commerce as part of the acquisition, including the startup's co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Zephrin Lasker. Lasker is apparently meant to lead Rakuten Viber's e-commerce efforts, indicating that the communications service is still adamant to continue pursuing this particular monetization method. The move essentially mimics that of Facebook who recently started putting a larger focus on e-commerce within its own Messenger, currently the most popular IM solution on the planet. While this particular market segment is relatively saturated in this day and age, IM apps are still thought to be difficult to monetize without impacting user retention rates, and e-commerce is currently seen as one of the safest ways to make money from such offerings. Due to that state of affairs, Rakuten Viber is unlikely to be the last IM service that attempts to monetize its user base by providing it with a robust shopping network within a messaging app.
In the short term, the company's acquisition of Chatter Commerce is unlikely to have a major impact on its everyday operations and consumers presumably won't see any results of the tie-up for a while. Looking at the broader picture, Rakuten Viber may have opted to acquire the startup as a cost-effective move as the firm was possibly planning on utilizing Chatter Commerce's services in the future, hence wanting to acquire its talent directly and preventing its competitors from doing the same.