What were some of the interesting trends that Mary Meeker reported?
Ted Mann: In the 2016 Internet Trends report, Meeker highlighted the rise of mobile photography — a big mobile paradigm, alongside messaging. More than 3 billion photos per day are shared via social apps (Snapchat, Instagram, Messenger) and many multiples of that are shared outside of social. This trend has spawned new fields like visual search (searching for a product by taking a photo of it) as well as visual commerce (activating shopping or advertising based on UGC images). We see retailers adopting visual search as a secondary mode of searching in their apps (look for the camera icon in the search bar). It is expected that visual and audio search will eclipse text-based search in the coming years, due to better ease of use and accuracy in mobile — and soon, wearables.
Should brands integrate a chat app strategy in to their mobile marketing mix?
Ted Mann: Messaging has become one of the dominant paradigms in mobile. This is not only fueled by the overwhelming popularity of WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, Kik and Messenger, but also the rise of AI and deep learning to make it possible to have a natural conversation with a brand or retailer. The tools to build chatbots — as well as human-powered chat clients — are quite powerful and easy to deploy, and it is possible for a brand to create and test messaging experiences cheaply. I believe it’s wise to begin experimenting now, as messaging continues to eat mobile.
What are the opportunities for developers?
Ted Mann: We saw firsthand the power of a messaging-based UX at the company I run when we tested Scout, our own chatbot for finding deals. We added in the ability to take a picture and send that into the chat. It really hit home for me when I took a pic of an iPad at Target, and the Scout chatbot told me how to save $200 in store — thanks to an instant rebate and price match!
There are tons of other great user experiences for chatbots. Sephora has built a phenomenal bot on Kik that teaches you how to choose the right makeup for your complexion. Spring has a killer Messenger bot that is like a personal shopper or stylist. Another bot I dig is BlynkStyle, which is sort of like Tinder for fashion, but it learns your preferences and begins recommending looks based on what you respond to.
There’s a lot of personal data associated with chat apps – what are the privacy implications?
Ted Mann: Facebook recently announced that developers on their bot engine will have the ability to tap into the rich trove of user data they have, in order to better personalize Messenger-based conversations. This is a huge boon to brands and bot developers, as you won’t need to ask questions like, “are you a woman?” “where do you live?” etc. in order to deliver appropriate recommendations. Users have the ability to opt out of sharing this data, but for those that do, the messaging conversations are likely to be that much more helpful.
Will consumers increasingly use chat apps as a payment channel or is China an isolated example?
Ted Mann: Mobile payments are sure to continue rising. Look no further than the growth of Apple Pay (and expansion into Canada) for proof of that. Facebook hiring David Marcus from PayPal to run Messenger is a clear sign they see payments as key to their strategy. I expect more messaging apps to learn from the success of WeChat with payments.
Ted Mann is the President of Slyce, the market leader in image recognition for retail. Their visual search solution is utilized by retailers such as JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, and Best Buy. Prior to joining Slyce, Mann founded SnipSnap, a leading mobile coupon app that utilizes image recognition to scan paper coupons into mobile offers, and has saved its 5MM+ users more than $500 million to date.