Amazon may launch a messaging app, competing in Facebook’s domain. But does it stand a chance?
It feels like it was just a month and a half ago that I was talking about Amazon launching their Alexa Calling & Messaging service, and what their next steps could be. One of the strategic options that I considered then was for Amazon to use this service to directly compete in the Social Communications space, offering an alternative to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.
I then said that I thought this was probably not the best approach for Amazon, but now information has surfaced pointing to a new product called Amazon Anytime that would be exactly that.
According to this information, Amazon Anytime would be a full social communications offering, with multi-device focus (see the smartwatch icon in the image above?) and allowing texting, calling, video, group communications of all these categories and interaction with businesses.
At this point it is unclear whether this is a real product or a research initiative by Amazon, trying to gather insights before defining what their actual product should be, if any.
So, is this now a good idea?
I will take a look at this in a (short) series of posts that will cover:
- Why is Amazon doing this? (keep reading! This post is about just *that*!)
- What looks interesting and what is a bad idea?
- What else should Amazon consider?
Why is Amazon doing this?
Let’s start with the most basic question, about what could be Amazon’s goal for moving into this space.
Nowadays social communication services are free for end users, and monetization comes (or is expected) fundamentaly from advertising. This is the obvious case for Facebook social network, but it is also the path being followed by products like Facebook Messenger. This could be an interesting approach for Amazon too, a company not usually related with the advertising business, but that is increasingly pushing into this space.
Advertising may become a part of Anytime at some point, but I don’t think this is the main reason for Amazon to consider launching this app, because it is still a relatively small business for them. I believe this is a protective — or at least exploratory — approach to face an incoming risk to their core activity: eCommerce retail operations.
Messaging as an eCommerce platform
Facebook as the incumbent, but also other messaging players (like Google simultaneously including Google Assistant in Allo, while hedging its bet supporting telcos with their RCS initiative), are exploring the concept of the messaging/communication apps as engagement points that can be leveraged for eCommerce. Their efforts in pushing businesses to interact with their customers via chatbots are just the technological reflection of their actual goal: driving economic transactions through messaging apps, and getting some kind of fee in the process. WhatsApp is clearly focusing its monetization efforts in the offering for business, and while there is no evidence that they will provide chatbots, the key aspect is that the value of just enabling the channel between a business and their customers can be huge. These players are trying to replicate the success in China of WeChat, which has been able to become the center of the economic lives for many users, that use the chat app for almost any kind of transaction.
So with this context, thinking that consumers may shift their buying behaviors to directly interacting with brands and stores via chats, we get a good insight on why Amazon could be worried and try to grab some kind of control over this channel.
Now the question is whether a new app can really help them here.
In my next post I will look at what looks interesting (and what looks just bad) from the information that has been shared until now about Amazon Anytime.