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H&M, Sephora chatbots gain visibility in Kik's new marketplace

H&M, Sephora and Weather Channel are among a number of brands now appearing in messaging application Kik's new Bot Shop marketplace, potentially driving discovery and use as chatbots gain steam. 

Kik has launched its Bot Shop, a marketplace that takes the form of an app store for users to better find chatbot offerings from official marketers and has partnered with Imperson, Massively and Sequel to help others develop bots for the platform. H&M, Sephora and Weather Channel are a few of the big-name marketers that have existing bots featured on the Bot Shop, a smart move considering comedy brand Funny or Die saw 1.5 million Kik users interact with its chatbot within its first three months in 2014. 

?Some might guess that it is about the technology but that's not necessarily the primary driver,? said Eyal Pfeifel, co-founder and chief technology officer of Imperson. ?Bots are not suddenly much more advanced than they were in recent years. 

?Instead, the recent growth of chatbots can be attributed to people increasingly moving their communication to messaging apps,? he said. ?As a result, bots are coming into play as an efficient and powerful way of allowing companies as a way of converse with or entertain lots of people. 

?More importantly, it is the next evolution of marketing automation, one that allows brands and marketers to create personalized communications at scale like never before.? 

Shopping for bots

For instance, if a user is interested in questions related to retail, retailers Sephora and H&M are featured under the Lifestyle umbrella, where fans can then immediately interact with them. To browse the variety of chatbots, users must tap on the magnifying glass in the top right-hand corner of the app, click find people and select Bot Shop at the bottom. 

Kik is hoping new marketers will jump on board as well and develop their own chatbots via its bot API. 

Rise of the chatbots
The update comes after the serious recent spike in the use and introduction of chatbots on mobile messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and Kik. Microsoft?s recent chatbot disaster notwithstanding, an explosion of relatively easy-to-develop messaging interfaces is expected this year as marketers look to capitalize on the time spent in Facebook Messenger, Kik and other similar apps (see more). 

The spike in chatbots is congruent with numbers showing that smartphone owners are more interested in have a smaller number of apps that accomplish a broader range of tasks. For instance, 1.4 billion people interacted with a chatbot in 2015, according eMarketer, while only 200 mobile apps have boasted 70 percent of usage in the U.S.  

Sephora?s recently debuted on Kik, another reflection of the push towards conversational commerce through chatbots and how to drive sales with one-to-one experiences on mobile that mimic in-store interactions (see more). 

?Having a single dedicated marketplace for bots will allow consumers to better discover the bots they desire, whether that be for utility, entertainment or gaming,? Mr. Pfeifel said. ?For marketers, this means they can better reach their target audience based on user interests. 

?Bots allow consumers to engage with their favorite brands in an entirely new way,? he said. ?Traditionally, brands and marketers have marketed and advertised to their audience through one-way conversations but bots encourage consumers to initiate personal two-way conversations. 

?This means consumers lead the experience and, therefore, are much more vested. Bots also present a highly engaging and entertaining way for consumers to interact with their favorite brands and characters. ?