Reports surfaced a few days ago that e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is working on a new messaging service called Anytime. I'm pretty skeptical about the idea, mostly because the consumer market for messaging apps and services is already overcrowded, and it's hard to envision Amazon bringing anything new or differentiated to the table in terms of voice/video calling, group messaging, photo/video filters, or any of the other relatively standard features that are essentially table stakes for messaging services in 2017.
That being said, there is one feature that has some potential: chatting with businesses.
Everybody's doing it
Connecting consumers with businesses is a core aspect of Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Messenger monetization strategy, one that it has been articulating for a couple of years now. The idea, which was likely spawned from the growing trend of leveraging social media as a customer service platform, is to help businesses automate and scale customer service interactions in part by utilizing chatbots, with the businesses footing the bill. Currently, Facebook is trying to "build the behavior" of consumers reaching out to businesses on a messaging platform, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which is still a fairly new concept for most people.
Meanwhile, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has outlined its own ambitions to connect consumers with businesses in iMessage with Business Chat, as part of its broader efforts to turn iMessage into a content platform. Business Chat is a new feature that developers can use in iOS 11, and will publicly launch next year. Apple will even facilitate e-commerce transactions with Apple Pay integrations. What's less clear is how Apple plans on monetizing Business Chat, if at all. It certainly doesn't need to monetize Business Chat directly, which could be one of many features that simply help sell more iPhones. Facebook has attempted to integrate various payment and e-commerce features into Messenger. It's made little progress on this front, but the social media specialist not about to give up anytime soon.
Messaging as an e-commerce platform
Seeing as how Amazon is the largest e-commerce platform in the world, the company could be uniquely positioned to facilitate precisely these types of interactions. It has all of the data and details regarding the countless transactions it processes, and since Amazon also helps handle customer support (one of the benefits it offers merchants), it could also benefit from greater automation and scale.
Like Apple and Facebook, Amazon hopes to turn messaging into an outlet for its e-commerce platform. Amazon's description of Anytime notes that users will be able to get customer service, make reservations, check order status, and shop. The company also points out that bank account information will be securely encrypted and private. This is where the true potential for Anytime lies -- in bolstering Amazon's core e-commerce business.