Today you can buy flowers, get reservations, and order toilet paper via bots. Tomorrow, you might be able to buy just about anything via Messenger, SMS, or any other messaging protocol.
Seattle-based ReplyYes announced a $6.5 million round of funding today focused on building a platform for mobile commerce via messaging services. The company has already sold over 100,000 vinyl records for Universal Music Group, and will be expanding that into tickets, concert merch, and more.
“The ReplyYes mission is to help people discover and purchase the things that they love. Our platform enables brands to engage and transact with their customers where they increasingly are — on their mobile phones messaging,” Dave Cotter, CEO of ReplyYes, said in a statement. “Through this latest investment, the world’s leading lifestyle brands will be able to leverage the ReplyYes platform to offer frictionless e-commerce over mobile messaging, allowing their audience direct and personalized engagement with the brands they love.”
The company is seeing “a lot of interest” from lifestyle brands, tickets and events, apps/games, and some categories of consumables, Cotter also told me via email.
Purchase is the point of convergence between customer and seller, and there’s a lot of money to be made there.
Amazon has made significant strides to enable purchasing via a voice-first system, and Google Home just announced similar capability. While WeChat has shown U.S.-based companies that commerce can happen via a messaging app, and some bots have made strides in that direction, it has not been simple for brands to use bots for more than customer service.
ReplyYes, potentially, provides the platform that will make that happen.
The company has enabled commerce over Facebook Messenger and SMS right now, and will be looking to enable more platforms in the future. Slack is an obvious candidate, with Kik potentially in the wings (although its younger demographic might prove challenging to monetize).
Snapchat could be interesting as well, but it’s hard to see how Snap would allow that without an acquisition.
According to ReplyYes, brands that enable commerce via their messaging bot can use the data alongside all their other marketing data.
“One of the benefits of our platform is data on purchase intent, purchase sentiment, and customer behavior — that lives within the messaging channel — can easily be ingested and analyzed by a company’s marketing analytics platform,” Cotter said via email. “This gives them unique insights into how to merchandise and communicate with customers that ultimately drives higher engagement and conversion rates.”
Payment is built into the platform, as is shipping.
While most of the interaction with potential customers is automated and driven by AI — ReplyYes doesn’t specify exactly what kind of artificial intelligence — brand employees can assist in the conversations.
The funding was led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Cross Culture Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Muse Capital, and Arnold Venture Group.