Wednesday, October 5 2022

The jury may still be out on how e-commerce will evolve in the future, but Bobble AI has already taken its next bet: conversational commerce.

At the heart of this new offering is its core product, a keyboard used by more than 83 million users.

AI-powered startup AI Bobble offers Indian keyboards that allow users to type in Indian languages, supporting over 120 languages ​​and dialects including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil and Punjabi.

With a growing user base, Bobble AI saw the opportunity to expand its offering into a great keyboard.

By tapping the “Great support” icon, the Bobble keyboard turns into a super keyboard that offers suggestions when it comes to frequently used services such as payments, shopping or travel, Ankit PrasadCo-founder, tells Your story.

For a user, this would mean being able to book a taxi or order a product using Bobble’s keyboard. The application, depending on the conversation, suggests and leads to the individual application, and allows the user to choose a product or book a taxi by simply pressing the keypad.

“We embed these services into the real estate of a keyboard – our platform – and make them conversational for consumption,” says Ankit.

Conversational commerce is an extension of social commerce, which is used by big tech players like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell products and services.

Until now, Bobble has been personalizing conversations with its AI-based suggestions, GIFs, stickers, emojis, and more.

Now, beyond smart recommendations, he wants users to use his keyboard to engage in e-commerce transactions, which recommends on the keyboard. Bobble earns a commission for every transaction made through its keypad.

Launched a few months ago, Bobble’s keyboard features offerings from five partners in areas such as direct-to-consumer, merchandising, travel, news and horoscope.

One of its partners is Uber. The company did not disclose other names.

Operation of a chat platform for e-commerce

Ankit, an IIT dropout, is the startup’s CEO and older brother, Rahul Prasad, is co-founder and CTO. Previously, they co-founded the Touchtalent networking platform.

Bobble sees itself as a conversational media platform in addition to offering a keyboard, similar to how Instagram is a social media platform with a camera as its base. He wants users to see the keyboard not just as a utility, but as a platform they also use for trading.

Why, however?

Ankit says many of these ideas are generated during conversations.

Since its debut in 2015, Bobble has developed technology that understands the intent and context of conversations, and gives real-time suggestions.

“The thesis is that many intents are generated during conversations on WhatsApp, Telegram, and Instagram. These conversations lead to hundreds of intents for a particular consumer,” Ankit says.

The question then was, “Can we proactively serve these intents via third-party service integration into (the keyboard)?”

With the growing number of WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook and Instagram users, messaging has become one of the main ways to communicate with each other.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market and has over 450 million users. Facebook has about 240 million users in the country. Familiarity with the user experience in these apps makes it easier for consumers to watch videos or read news.

Bobble wants to capitalize on these users and their behavior.

“Our idea of ​​commerce is through the keyboard within the same interface. Keyboard as a suitable platform to detect intent in real time, based on what the user is acting on in the smartphone and give personalized suggestions,” says Ankit.

Bobble’s keyboard can capture that intent up close and is in the “right position” to respond to those intents. It, he says, will also reduce the need to use multiple apps for a single service, which Bobble plans to aggregate and offer through its keyboard.

Total spending on conversational commerce channels will reach $290 billion by 2025, up from $41 billion in 2021, according to research from Juniper Research.

Bobble AI is backed by investors including SAIF Partners, Xiaomi Inc. and Affle India.

Generate ideas and intelligence

Part of the reason the Gurugram-based startup is able to promise this deal is because of the engagement metrics and machine learning algorithms it has developed over the years.

In its early days, Bobble allowed users to turn their selfies into cartoon stickers. Over the years, it has evolved into a holistic content and keyboard app.

Once downloaded, the Bobble keyboard is used whenever a user wants to type something. Bobble captures user data as intent to do an activity and uses it to offer text suggestions or personalized emoji or sticker suggestions. At least 20 million people use its platform at any time of the day, according to the company.

It processes this user data to generate signals and information, and derives profit from it. It provides market information to help its clients understand the industry or the competition. It also uses data to provide predictive audience cohorts to particular businesses to help them advertise and improve their reach.

“We did not consent to first-party data; we are GDPR compliant. And we use this data to generate value for brands in an aggregated and anonymous way,” says Ankit.

Last year, Bobble launched a conversational media marketing offering, which allows brands to leverage messaging platforms and market themselves when consumers talk about things like pizza, cab rides, and more. This is done through branded stickers, GIFs, memes or emojis.

Here, users “share content and that sharing behavior itself is monetized,” Ankit adds.

Ankit says both of these are “matured” and growing. The startup has more than 50 brandsincluding Cadbury, Starbucks and Patanjali, as customers.

Bobble claims over 70 billion messages, with 10 billion emojis and 700 million GIFs and stickers, are exchanged daily through its keyboards.

The company has a high rate of user engagement and retention with a daily over monthly active user rate of 78%. Its 90-day retention rate is approximately 75%.

“The vision was there from the start, but we never worked on the commercial part until this quarter,” says Ankit. “Because in order for this model to be successful, we first needed a great product and a large user base, who were very engaged and retained.”

“Now is the best time because conversational AI has also picked up, and brands have had a bit of a taste of bots,” he adds.

And after?

Bobble reaches its audience through marketing campaigns. Since 2019, the total number of users in the company increased by more than 1000%. This was driven by the pandemic, the addition of new internet users, and a shift in behavior towards text conversations.

“When people spend most of their time at home, they spend more time on smartphones and therefore more time on conversations, because there is a lack of physical conversation,”

The company tested and launched the conversational offering in April and plans many more services in the coming months, Ankit said.

About 4-5% of its users come from Indonesia, where it aims to launch this offer next, as it is able to expand the user base.

In other regions where it has users, such as the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, it allows conversational commerce players to license its technology.

Bobble’s team became a team of 250 people.

Conversational commerce is a fast-growing segment for the company, so much so that it has been the biggest contributor – around 40% – to its revenue segment, since last month.

The data-as-a-service model, which has historically contributed most of the revenue, has dropped from over 50% to 25%.

Branded media contributes to approx. 15% of turnover. The rest comes from licensing patented language and keyboard technology to businesses, including dating apps or chatbots.

In the 2022 financial year, Bobble AI reported revenue of around $2.8 million (Rs 18 crore). For next year, it aims to reach $15 million (about Rs 119 crore).

Although not yet profitable, the plan is to scale further and increase expenses as revenues increase.

The company competes with Google Gboard and Microsoft SwiftKey keyboards in terms of products, but differentiates itself by offering localized content. Given its sources of revenue, it competes with third-party data aggregators; in content, the likes of Snapchat and Bitmoji have similar offerings.

As Bobble aims to increase its user base and level of engagement, the company is also preparing for an initial public offering (IPO). This includes building its management team and achieving levels of corporate governance. It plans to launch an IPO in India within the next two to three years, depending “on when the market is favourable”.

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