As part of a briefing today outlining the company’s monetization strategy for BBM, BlackBerry demonstrated its upcoming virtual goods platform. What does a ‘virtual goods platform’ mean, exactly? For now: stickers, and lots of them.
David Proulx, BlackBerry’s Senior Director of BBM Business Development, said that the mandate for BBM’s virtual goods store is to provide content that is “additive to the BBM experience.” Based upon their explosive global popularity in other messaging apps, where stickers are often used in place of character-based conversation, and the longstanding appeal of those stalwart emoticons in BBM itself, stickers certainly fit the bill as a communication enhancer.
But as with most things, implementation is key, especially as BlackBerry is playing sticker catch-up to other messaging services as it looks to continue BBM’s cross-platform growth. For its part, BlackBerry has nailed the basics while laying the foundation for more interesting developments.
BlackBerry’s head of Product Marketing Jeff Gadway describes BBM’s stickers, as “bigger, richer, more emotive” versions of the classic BBM emoticon. Unlike BBM emoticons, BBM stickers will not sit inline with text but occupy their own line in chats. Unlike most stickers in other chat apps, however, BBM stickers will not be animated (yet). Users will be able to add a BBM sticker to a conversation using the same tray currently for emotions, separated by its own icon. There will also be a shopping cart icon in the same tray where users can download or purchase new sticker packets directly from within the app in one click (see above photo). Each sticker packet will contain approximately 20-25 different stickers, and the non-free packets will retail for $1.99USD. Proulx indicated this price is merely “a place to start” and could change.
BlackBerry’s initial virtual goods partners will likely sell a boatload of stickers when they’re available via an app update next week, but I’m personally more interested to see how BlackBerry evolves this relationship. Gadway stated during the briefing that virtual goods like stickers are a great way for users to opt-in brands into their chat screen. Right now this is a very static interaction, but Gadway hinted that BlackBerry was working with brands to use virtual goods as a jumping off point for richer content outside of BBM. As I said before, compelling implementation will dictate adoption, but to compete against the multitude of available messaging apps, BBM will need to differentiate, not just feature match.
Disclosure: I used to work at BlackBerry from 2009-2011 and know Jeff Gadway well. I would describe him as bigger, richer, more emotive.