Shopify gets into chatbots with acquisition of Kit CRM

The chatbot craze has claimed another victim. I mean, acquisition. Shopify, the makers of a popular platform used by over 243,000 businesses, from smaller online merchants to big names like Tesla and Budweiser, announced today it’s buying a startup called Kit CRM. The company helps businesses interact with their customers over text messages – yes, “conversational commerce.”

That term refers to how a number of online businesses, and in particular, e-commerce sites, are now developing automated tools that will allow them to chat, support and answer customer questions about products, shipping, and more via SMS or one of the many popular messaging platforms.

Microsoft just introduced chatbots in Skype and a chatbot building toolkit for developers to create these mini-apps for other platforms, while yesterday Facebook unveiled similar ambitions with the debut of chatbots for Messenger. Shopify, in fact, is one of the early adopters of Facebook’s chatbots, having announced integrations with the new platform.

Prior to Kit CRM’s acquisition, Shopify merchant customers had been able to take advantage of the service’s functionality through the Shopify App Store, which offers optional add-ons for Shopify’s online store software. The add-on was one of the top-rated apps, Shopify notes, and it had just rolled out an update that introduced an API that let it interact with other Shopify App Store apps.

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Founded in 2013, and seed funded by Technicolor Ventures and Visionnaire Ventures, Kit CRM created “virtual marketing tools” that could perform a variety of functions, including running targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram, post updates to company’s Facebook pages, make recommendations to customers based on their store activities, and more. And all of of this could be done via text messages. It was heavily focused on letting merchants run particular aspects of their online businesses over SMS.

However, Shopify seems to be most interested in the chatbot angle to this deal, as the company says its goal is to bolster its focus on the “conversational commerce” trend. That means business-to-consumer conversations.

“We believe messaging apps are the gateway for the internet on mobile, and conversational commerce represents a huge opportunity for Shopify,” said Craig Miller, Chief Marketing Officer at Shopify, in a statement.

Deal terms were not specified. Kit CRM’s team, including founder Michael Perry, will join Shopify as part of the deal. Its Shopify App Store app is still available for the time being. However, that may not be permanent. The company says that the acquisition isn’t complete yet, so it has no details to share about whether there’s a plan to discontinue service to non-Shopify customers.

The plan for now is for Kit to continue working on its product under Shopify’s umbrella, while the gradual integration process is underway.