Lookup, which recently raised $2.5 million from a range of investors that include Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, uses chat to remove the pain of web browsing, multiple apps, etc for local shopping and — importantly — bring offline retailers online with minimal amounts of difficulty. A store simply gets an account to begin receiving orders and enquiries from customers via chat in Lookup.
This tie-in isn’t as sophisticated as Twitter’s buy button which, announced last year, handles transactions directly via Stripe. Instead, Twitter will act as a communications pipe, just like the Lookup app itself. Orders and payment are fulfilled separately and offline for now, Lookup handles the important step of connecting merchant and customer — thanks to Twitter APIs and its monitoring options for partners.
In that respect, this partnership turns Twitter into a personal assistant service much like Facebook Messenger M, which is being trialled in the U.S.. Indeed, Lookup founder and CEO Deepak Ravindran told TechCrunch that Twitter was interested in this partnership because of its appeal as a concierge service, which might boost its popularity in the huge Indian market. (Twitter is estimated to be used by just 17 percent of social network users in India — or less than two percent of the population.)
Lookup handles all kinds of enquiries — such as checking for available stock in a store or opening hours — but Ravindran told us that, after a week, the Twitter partnership so far been popular for buying items from local stores.
“Basically we act like a I want it right now button’,” he explained. There have been orders for high-end goods like iPads and Fibits but “most of the enquiries however are on low price orders under $5-10.”
Lookup is actively pushing the commerce angle by offering free delivery on all orders made before Christmas. So if there are any last minute gift requests, it might be something worth checking out.
Ultimately, the Lookup app is likely to continue to be the main portal for the service, but adding Twitter helps promote the service and offer alternative options, too. Interest may drop up after the Christmas period though. Ravindran added that the company is investigating other channel partnerships.
“Machines will outsmart humans in the future but it will take time. We want to win in India [and] here is [our] chance. We want to reach to every channel to grow users and ultimately become the Google for offline,” he said.
Like its partnership with Zipdial, the missed call service that it ended up acquiring, this partnership with Lookup is interesting because it takes its service beyond a communications protocol, and almost into a platform on which services can be deployed or integrated. It seems unlikely that this partnership, or others like it, will surface in Western markets. But it shows Twitter is increasing its focus on India, where Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp are the dominant social and mobile players among the billion-plus population.