Today the world runs on text messaging; it’s no longer a place for teenagers, weird niche interest chat rooms or shadowy super coders to communicate. It has become ubiquitous, and every Normie mc norman and their grandmother now have one or more chat apps on their phones.
The SMS replacement has taken off like wildfire, and while we do use it to kill time, send memes and check up with relatives, recruit high school friends to your latest MLM or watch ghosted Tinder dates life updates, these platforms also conduct millions, if not billions, in eCommerce transactions every year.
Applications like WhatsApp have recognised this trend and WhatsApp for business continues to add new features for marketing, conducting sales, managing leads, booking clients and even requesting payments via their chat app. Other chat apps have more informal options, but the formalising of chat commerce is coming, like it or not.
What is chat commerce?
Chat commerce is another marketing buzzword used to describe transactions that happen via text message. Chat commerce is a way of buying products and services or gaining information about these products and services through 1-1 communication on any messaging app. Chat commerce breaks away from the typical ‘see the product, buy product’ paradigm you see with social media feeds, banner advertising or search and shopping ads and allows for a more personal service to be delivered to customers.
When you communicate directly with the customer, you can give them the details they want and have more control over the conversion funnel. Chat commerce can be delivered through online live support, messaging apps, chatbots or voice assistant technologies. Still, for most people, it will be done through their preferred messaging app.
This means that businesses have the chance to reach customers through the mediums most familiar to people. This could be via an online store, a messaging platform like Whatsapp, Telegram, Discord or a social network like Facebook with its Messenger or Instagram DM platform.
Chat commerce can be as formal or informal as you like, from individuals providing their services on WhatsApp and simply negotiating via text and images to more complex transactions with the help of bots, such as those run on Telegram and Discord. You can sell physical products, digital products or book services through chat commerce, making it a tool that is appealing to any business owner and turns a marketing tool into a sales tool all in one platform.
The biggest blocker in chat commerce
Without a doubt, The biggest pain point in chat commerce is settling payments; in almost all cases, the payments are conducted outside the app or through a browser option inside the app, which might be a smoother process but is less than ideal.
While dealing with local vendors might be slightly easier due to interbank transfers, vouchers or being able to meet up and clear in cash, when conducting digital transactions, international transactions or regional transactions, these payment methods do have their limitations.
Additionally, users can also be subject to sending fraudulent payment links, being MIM attacked or having their payment and personal details extracted as very few check warning signs on their mobile device. In addition, high-pressure sales tactics can easily be conducted through chat commerce which can put consumers at risk.
Bitcoin fixes this
Since there is no native payment option for all chat apps, one that is ubiquitous and can move across both smartphones and feature phones, there is a clear gap in the market for a payment network.
The network should be able to:
- Clear funds in an instant
- Require no signup or KYC
- Be interoperable with any chat application
- Can be connected to prompts like chatbots
- Can action cross-border payments
- Can request payment invoices
- Can clear outside banking hours
- Be cheap to make transactions
- Can clear any amount of funds
There is no traditional payment network in the world that can offer this to users except bitcoin and the Lightning network. Even if no chat app in the world offers native support for Lightning, its open nature allows individuals to use it almost natively in text formats. It’s as if the Lightning network was made to be used with chat apps, effortlessly overcoming all the issues of fragmentation across platforms and also being programmable enough to work in any chat commerce situation.
Lightning can facilitate anything from:
- Settling a purchase
- Splitting a bill with friends
- Tipping someone
- Gifting someone
- Making remittance payments
It is only up to the user on how they wish to leverage Lightning; it can be as simple as pasting a QR code into the chat to settle payment or as complex as setting up a bot that can action payments based on certain text commands in chat.
Chat commerce and the P2P market
At the moment, we already have bitcoin P2P markets using chat services, such as buying or selling bitcoin via Telegram. The user behaviour and infrastructure are already in existence, and people use it daily, but this doesn’t only have to be limited to trading between bitcoin and fiat; it could be bitcoin and products, bitcoin and services or even lightning-backed stablecoins and products and services.
The application of chat commerce using bitcoin as the settlement asset and lightning as the rails can usher in P2P markets that aren’t only digital asset based but promote a host of private transactions where individuals meet and trade anything of value.
It need not matter what local currency you use, which chat app you’re using; once you’re onboarded to lightning, all those barriers become irrelevant and as long as you can transfer a QR code, LN-URL, Lightning Address, KeySend or BOLT12 invoice, you can start making or accepting payments.
Will sats come to your chats
Bitcoin and its programmable nature, with the help of the Lightning Network, make it the perfect tool for microtransactions, paywall transactions and split payments, and its instant clearance makes it the ideal medium to conduct chat commerce to keep all particpants happy while transacting via text message, by reducing friction for customers and enhancing user experience they already understand and use every day.
So do you think I am on to something? Could bitcoin put an end to all these walled gardens and usher in an era of open P2P transactions via chat apps? Let us know in the comments down below