Kik Is Launching a Shop for Users to Interact With Chatbots From Brands

Vine, H&M and The Weather Channel among the first to try it

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Kik has launched its own chatbot shop, further opening the floodgates to users who want to engage with messaging apps from brands and publishers arriving on the Canadian messaging platform.

Starting today, Kik's Bot Shop will begin allowing users to download bots for entertainment, customer service and shopping. Developers will also be able to access the platform through Kik's open API, allowing third parties to build bots on behalf of brands that want to try out the emerging space that some say is the best thing since the invention of mobile apps.

A total of 16 brands and publishers have launched bots on the platform ahead of the launch. For example, the Vine bot lets users text a word or phrase to the bot, which will then reply with a Vine clip related to the topic. Makeup company Sephora is using its bot to provide beauty advice and product tips, while H&M's provides fashion advice and a chance to directly purchase clothing through the bot. As for The Weather Channel? That one might be easy to guess. Others include GIF search platform Riffsy and comedy website Funny or Die.

According to Mike Roberts, Kik's head of messenger services, bots are available in three categories—entertainment, lifestyle and games—with more categories possible after launch. Along with the users side, Kik has named several launch partners that will help create bots on the platform. However, because of the platform's open API, all developers are able to launch bots on Kik.

"Messengers are the new browser and bots are the new websites," Roberts told Adweek.

Messaging apps continue to gain momentum as the digital hangout of choice for younger generations. Of Kik's 275 million registered users, 40 percent of those in the U.S. are teens. That number will likely grow, with eMarketer expecting the total global number of messaging app users to increase from 1.4 billion in 2015 to 1.6 billion this year.

The space is likely to grow rapidly. Last week, Microsoft announced plans for a bot framework for developers. Facebook is also rumored to be launching its own bot store during its F8 event later this month.

So will bots kill apps? Roberts doesn't think so.

"I think bots will help apps evolve," he said. "I think of myself, and I use things like (Adobe) Photoshop to do art and Premier to do video editing, and I don't think I'll ever move those experiences onto the phone in my pocket. Likewise, I think there are classes of experiences in apps today that are better suited for bots. There is no need for 100 apps on my home screen."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.