Messaging apps are all the rage. If you're lucky, Facebook might even buy yours for $19 billion or so. Squeezing revenue out of them, though, is another story. But it can be done.
BlackBerry's strategy to eke revenue out of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)—which 80 million-plus monthly active users all over the world still use—sharpened into focus today. It doesn't involve ads, or even words, really; it revolves around digital stickers that you can send to your friends.
BlackBerry's version of a sticker is basically an emoji, but bigger. Back in February, BBM announced it was bringing sticker packs for BBM into beta, which users could purchase for about two dollars. "Unlike emoticons, stickers are bolder, more beautiful images that you can add right in to your chat," Sean Hungerford, head of Product Management for BBM, said in a blog post. "Each sticker pack will contain between 20-25 stickers relating to a theme or a character." Those stacks are purchasable starting at $1.99 in the BBM Shop, which formally launches out of beta today. "Stickers is the first product inside the virtual goods platform," David Proulx, senior director of BBM, told Fast Company. "What we're deploying is a framework for merchandising and targeting, for transactions to occur within the applications that can be applied to different goods and services going forward."
But part of the challenge for messenger applications looking to monetize is that traditional banner ads don't work. Advertisers would rather not intrude a space users might feel is private, safe, or even sacred. The BBM Shop, on the other hand, paints a clear separation between where the money is made, and where the action—in this case text messaging—actually occurs.
The in-app purchase economy is big business, too. Near its peak, Candy Crush Saga was said to be making $994,344 a day from players purchasing extra turns and power-ups. Consumers are increasingly unfazed about paying an extra buck or two on a digital screen.
Of course, there is the risk that BBM users will gloss over the new shop altogether. Why buy what's basically a glorified emoji pack when BBM already offers dozens of perfectly good emoticons? But for brands looking to advertise, throwing together a sticker collection could present a nice opportunity to win new consumers, or perhaps engage an existing loyal fan base. If you're, say, Nintendo, you could release a Pokémon sticker pack and make a killing. And to promote Wrestlemania 30, WWE says it is giving away free BBM sticker packs.
"Messaging has many ways it can be mobilized," adds Proulx. "It is not a single-purpose utility."