Our Social Advertising Series has previously taken a look at Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder. But there has been another player on the scene all along: Kik. This week, ADTEKR takes a look at how the messaging app for post-millenials is hoping to Kik-start its adtech offering.
What is Kik?
Founded in Canada in 2009 by a group of students, Kik is a free messaging app used predominantly by post-millenials (those born around or since 2000, otherwise known as “generation Z”). It currently boasts more than 240 million active users in 230 countries, and says that 40% of American youths chat via Kik on a regular basis. In the American teen messaging market, that puts Kik second only to Facebook Messenger. According to Anthony Green, the Emerging Partners Lead at Kik, the average Kik user spends an hour and a half on the app every week.
Investments and Acquisitions
Last summer, Kik received a $50 million investment from Chinese internet behemoth Tencent (operator of WeChat), valuing the company at more than $1bn. Clearly Tencent sees that Kik has the opportunity to monetise its vast user base.
Back in October 2015 at New York Advertising Week, Kik was coy about its advertising plans – it said its focus was simply on growing its core user base and sticking with its pure messaging focus. No rapid diversification. No sudden influx of ads.
However, fast forward to December 2015 and Kik Interactive Inc. acquired Toronto fashion app Blynk. This was only Kik’s third acquisition (after Relay GIF Messenger in 2014 and mobile gaming developers GameMix in the summer of 2015). These three acquisitions reveal that Kik might yet have big plans in the mobile gaming arena, and – more significantly for advertisers – in terms of linking its messenger app with brands. And it ties in with what CEO Ted Livingston is targeting: an app that users turn to as a central platform for more than just chatting with their friends. Kik used this press release to justify the deal; it also revealed its admiration for WeChat, suggesting that Kik wants to become something similar.
Can Advertisers Kik it? Yes they can!
Kik’s already offers a unique partnering option: chat bots. These are topic-specific automated assistants that allow users to interact, in real time, with brands. Blynk, the fashion app acquired last month, already has a chat bot on Kik which gives users style tips and fashion advice (and can also suggest purchases). An interesting aside: just after the acquisition, Kik declined to comment on whether or not it plans to introduce payments to its service. Given its admiration for WeChat and the proliferation of partner chat bots, it seems that it won’t be long before users can make purchases directly through the Kik app.
Chat bots are an intriguing idea; by offering multiple automated assistants that users can interact with, Kik is creating a virtual assistant that brands are incentivised to buy into. This is something they can’t do with Siri or Cortana. Thanks to chat bots, advertisers won’t have to go searching for potential customers: those customers will come to them. And once users have followed a chat bot, that bot can send them push notifications – something brands can’t do on Facebook, for example. The only drawback is that in order for users to find and follow a chat bot, the brand will almost certainly need to pay for a sponsored placement via Kik’s Promoted Chats platform.
2016 and beyond…
The new year is just two weeks old, and already Kik has announced a new partnership. It is teaming up with mobile advertising company MediaBrix in an attempt to bring native-style ads to its platform. The incentive for users to watch these new ads is Kik Points, an in-app currency that users can spend on special emojis and other enhanced in-app features. Kik users already share video content alongside their messages on a regular basis, so Kik hopes that the inclusion of native video ads won’t disrupt the user experience.
MediaBrix is seen as something of a native specialist, aiming to deliver ads with rewards at the moment when the audience is most receptive (based on location, time of day, user behaviour and other variables). It claims it can deliver a 500% increase in engagement against other digital advertising methods. The idea is that it will push a notification to Kik users, letting them know that there is a chance to obtain Kik Points in return for watching a short ad. Kik remains adamant that the process should be a smooth part of the user flow through the app: “user experience is always the number one priority at Kik,” according to spokesman Josh Jacobs.
Kik certainly has some serious competition; as we’ve previously discussed here at ADTEKR, other players in the market (particularly SnapChat) have already taken huge strides in this space. But Kik has a huge user base, heavy financial backing and some great ideas – and advertisers are beginning to notice.