VP, E-Commerce, Rakuten Viber
Rakuten Viber has been at the forefront of the mobile commerce wave. We spoke to Zephrin Lasker, VP, E-Commerce, Rakuten Viber, to understand the latest trends in the space and how Rakuten Viber is leveraging consumer data to drive retargeting and how messaging apps are transforming marketing tactics.
Tell us about your role at Viber and the team/technology you handle.
I head up the eCommerce function at Viber, which is responsible for the messaging app’s native shopping keyboard that allows users to browse and share products. Viber’s shopping keyboard feature includes a range of items such as clothing, electronics and home goods. My team is responsible for all aspects of the eCommerce business and strategy, as well as managing and optimizing the user experience including navigation, partner portals, content development, sharing features and the checkout funnel.
How are messaging apps transforming customer engagement and marketing tactics?
For retailers, messaging apps are rapidly transforming customer engagement and marketing tactics for many reasons. First, the amount of time people spend on mobile has drastically increased in the last five years, plus the amount of time they spend in messaging apps is much higher than in any other platform, including social media. Second, messaging offers a natural and authentic touchpoint for people to share, discuss and recommend things they love and desire—and shopping is at the top of that list.
For retailers, messaging apps offer a unique opportunity to transform the brand-customer relationship, build trust and create lifelong loyalty. Through direct and authentic connections with consumers, retailers can create highly-personalized experiences that leave a strong impression. Furthermore, today’s shoppers are most influenced by their friends when making purchasing decisions. With Viber’s native shopping keyboard, the user flow is seamless, allowing them to share items they’re interested in with friends easily and naturally. Our users love that they don’t have to go back and forth between apps to copy links and share information—they can do it all directly from Viber.
Why must security be a top priority for brands and tech providers? How do you ensure these at Viber?
Just one look back at the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal shows why data security should be a top priority for brands and tech providers. It wasn’t just data on user behaviors and interests that was shared; it was also their private interactions with businesses. At Viber, we take privacy seriously and have implemented technology that makes it impossible for us to read chats or share personal information. All chats are fully end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning that consumers can feel confident that their messages are completely secure and can only be read by the person (or people) in the chat.
How do you leverage automation, AI, and big data analytics at Viber for better product innovations?
We always start by focusing on what our consumers want. We curate a list of brands that our users have shown interest in and constantly redefine what that algorithm looks like. We want to make sure consumers are seeing brands that are most relevant to them with brands we believe they would like to see. While we aren’t tracking what users are saying in chats, we are receiving constant feedback from our users to help us evolve our shopping solution to better align with their needs. The result is a product that is constantly growing with consumers as they use it. We’ve seen the usage of our shopping keyboard skyrocket based on this optimization of shopping options by the customer’s taste, location and the season in addition to other variables.
For mobile-only platforms, how do you organize your stack for Audience data, Customer Data and Intent Data? How are these streams different from each other?
For our platform, we use all three streams at different points within the user journey. When you first open the experience, we use audience and customer data to help us tailor the specific brands and products displayed. We can also look at intent data from similar users to surface deeper insights. As users continue to interact with the application, we can extract additional intent to constantly optimize our feed, ensuring users have the best experience possible.
In a mobile world, speed is a critical factor—especially since interactions are often a series of quick bursts. And that’s even more true with messaging apps. To be truly successful, we must deliver the right content to our users as quickly as possible using as many inputs as possible while still making privacy a main consideration in all our actions.
How do these data streams impact customer journeys on mobile-only e-commerce?
Shopping is a very personal activity and we built our experience to focus on the science of sharing, as it’s the biggest mobile commerce feature for our users. Shoppers take the things they want to buy and share them directly in a chat, allowing them to crowdsource outfits and accessories for everyday needs or for important events like prom or a wedding. When users share products on the app, we’re finding that it results in an increase in completed purchases. The more unique ways we find for users to share items, the more they are making it through the funnel to buying products. As the use of the shopping keyboard increases, we’re seeing a growth in customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
How do you see trends in Data Management influencing the adoption of Customer Experience platforms for mobile commerce?
Right now, the industry is still in the early stages of customer analytics and data management. As this grows, we’ll see richer relationships with vendors and partners that drive increased customer visibility. Ultimately, this will result in higher adoption rates of Customer Experience Platforms—and these platforms will become more reliant on data and information from messaging and social apps. This is because email and phone calls are the last places that most customers (especially younger ones) turn to when they want to get quick information or support from a brand or company. The customer service dynamic is quickly shifting toward messaging apps and chatbots that allow live chats about any customer issues, and we’ll continue to see this trend grow in the foreseeable future.
What are your predictions on Mobile Commerce for 2018-2020?
We’ve learned a lot about mobile commerce with the launch of the shopping keyboard on Viber. There is so much room for growth in mobile commerce and the pace of innovation is faster than ever. With that said, app fatigue will be a big challenge brands face and they will need to find opportunities to reach customers beyond their native app. The reality is that people don’t want a multitude of apps on their smartphone; they want to streamline their everyday mobile activities and cut down on the number of apps they use. We can expect to see a shakeout on dedicated brand apps, with messaging and social platforms coming out on top.
Brands will spend a lot of time, money and resources to improve their apps to try to engage consumers. Some will, of course, win consumer attention, but many will wonder what they can do differently to make their app strategy work. They’ll need to focus on striking a balance between apps, mobile websites and mobile integrations to build more advanced and integrated experiences. Mobile will only become a more important channel for brands and they will need to develop a strong strategy to stay relevant. This will require experimenting with everything from AI to voice technology to see what features resonate best with their customers.
Thanks for chatting with us, Zephrin.
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