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BBM’s Fight Back: Learning from China’s WeChat

Whatsapp has exceeded 1 billion users. Similarly for Facebook Messenger. Both are one of the top messaging apps used in this region – for both social and work purposes. One player that is seemingly lagging behind in the race is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) which made an arguably smart move in 2013 by propelling its Messenger app into the Android and iOS world. But still, it has been plummeting for several years until it made another move to fight back by granting Emtek Group of Indonesia the license to develop new BBM applications and services across various platforms.

And like Facebook Messenger as well, BBM is learning from WeChat’s successful model as its fight-back strategy. Facebook Messenger is vying to be the ‘WeChat’ of the West while BBM is fighting to be at least, the WeChat of Indonesia (which is a huge potential as it is).

What is so special about this WeChat model that BBM is emulating?

On its way to breaking the 1 billion users mark, users can use WeChat to book train tickets and get their laundry done, order dinner and play the lottery, pick out clothes and play video games. It’s the remote control for your smart home, a mobile bank, and a way to renew your visa.

And all these done in a conversational style via a highly-familiar chat interface – an interface which has become almost the default channel of communication even in our daily lives today!

It has pioneered the whole revolution of “chat as the universal interface” – ie you can, for all intents and purposes, live your entire life within WeChat by simply having conversations or chats.

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BBM’s slideshow of integrations. [Source: id.techinasia.com]

Understanding this trend, Emtek Group of Indonesia is pushing BBM strongly towards this ‘WeChat Model’ for Indonesia. BBM is revamping itself by inserting multiple integrations: e-commerce (which is a huge craze in Indonesia), entertainment and consumer services (like phone credit top-ups, making utility payments etc), while still keeping its identity as a chat app.

“Having BBM as the center of everything makes a lot of sense,” says CEO of KMK Adi Sariaatmadja.

Indeed, chat has become the ‘universal interface’ for us to perform our daily transactions and interactions between our friends and more increasingly –as we have seen in China’s WeChat– with businesses as well.

But, why would anyone want to interact with a banker, a teacher, a lawyer or even a doctor via chatting?

For one key reason: because chat is EASY and HIGHLY-FAMILIAR.

This whole idea of ‘chat as a universal’ interface stems from the idea that chatting has now become an inseparable part of our lives and we are spending a huge proportion of our days chatting or socializing. PewResearch Centre did a study in 2015 and found that chat is the most widely used smartphone feature, accessed by roughly 97 percent of users. Also quoting Jonathan Libov noted in his own blog post on messaging-based interfaces, “In contrast to a GUI [graphical user interface] that defines rules for each interaction—rules which, frustratingly, change from app to app—text-based, conversational interactions are liberating in their familiarity.”

Therefore, it does make sense for businesses to make your services available and accessible right from the mobile phones but in a simple and highly familiar way – via chatting.

The simplest thing a business can do without costing a bomb…

… is to simply make your services/products accessible via FREE chat applications out there like via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. But you may find it overwhelming to be responding to chat consultations for FREE or may find using FREE apps as not befitting to the brand of your business. If so, then you may want to just drop a note to [email protected] to see how we can easily overcome these –without costing a bomb.

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