When was the last time you got a sticker? If it was back in elementary school atop a spelling test you aced, then you’ve got some catching up to do.
Stickers are all the rage when it comes to mobile messaging. They are bigger, fancier — sometimes even animated — versions of emoticons and emoji, those smiley, winking and frowning faces we’ve been using in email for years. They can act as a sort of bridge between emoticon/emoji and Internet mainstays such as GIFs and memes:
Remember: Things move fast in mobile communication. Cell phones have only been must-have consumer devices for the last 10-15 years. Texting has gained ubiquitous popularity during just the last five. Now, people are abandoning texting in favor of mobile messaging apps like BBM.
Today, consumers on the leading edge aren’t even using words anymore.
Stickers are absolutely part of our monetization strategy. Now that BBM lives independently of the BlackBerry operating system and devices, it has its own business model: to become a platform for engaging with the mobile economic ecosystem. How do animated stickers fit into that grand scheme?
People love ‘em
Consumers love stickers. According to November, 2013 research from OnDevice, 40% of smartphone owners actively use stickers, and 20% of sticker users have purchased them at least once. As those numbers are nine months old, they’ve almost certainly increased by now.
The whole sticker craze started in Asia, where typing out messages in characters (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Zhuang) can be tedious and slow.
They can get the job done in a few taps when thumb-typing what you need to say could take upwards of 20 strokes, and can also help you communicate when words fail.
From a business perspective, stickers are a great way to monetize because they enhance the BBM experience, instead of bogging it down..
They don’t slow it down or interrupt you. Instead, they’re just quietly waiting for you in the BBM Shop should you want to employ a Frozen, South Park or Paul Frank character to convey a particular feeling or provoke a laugh.
And if you never want to buy stickers, you don’t have to. But come on: they’ll only set you back a dollar or two.
And they’re fun!
Surprise: Stickers Make Money
Japanese messaging app Line kicked off the current trend when it announced its earnings from stickers in Q1 2013: $17 million. In case anyone thought that was a fluke, Line followed up in Q2 with $27.4 million in sticker sales. The numbers have stayed impressively high ever since.
Another messaging and VoIP app, Viber (which sold to Japan’s online retailer Rakuten for $900 million earlier this year), revealed that during the first three months it offered stickers, its 300 million users downloaded 100 million packs (both free and paid).
And the revenue isn’t just from consumers.
Line and others also offer branded stickers. Users can “friend” a brand within the app to get its stickers. For example, a Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel Sanders collection was popular with Line users during the last Christmas season. Line reportedly charges brands $100,000 for the privilege.
Additionally, two characters from Line’s original sticker collections have made the leap to the real world: Brown the bear and Cony the rabbit are now available as plush toys, figurines, phone cases, and other gadgets.
Stickers have now become ‘table stakes’ in the mobile messaging world, from both a business and consumer perspective.
Blazing a Trail
Not only are stickers crowd-pleasers and revenue-generators, they’re also trailblazers. Stickers pave the way for payments, and introduce users to the idea to that a messaging app can become a content distribution platform.
The first time you click the button to buy a sticker pack from the BBM Shop (Why not? They’re fun!), you may wonder what’s going to happen: How will BBM collect your money?
BlackBerry isn’t interested in becoming a bank. We are, instead, integrating with established payment providers. On your mobile, that depends on what platform you’re using: BlackBerry users pay through their account on BlackBerry World, Android users’ purchases go through Google Play, iPhone purchases leverage iTunes accounts, and Windows Phone users transact through the Windows Phone store. We also offer direct-to-carrier billing as well. A few clicks take care of it. You get your stickers immediately, with your electronic receipt following in short order.
So easy, in fact, that sticker purchasers will have a good experience under their belts, and not hesitate to buy more stickers or other virtual goods and services down the road.
Payment infrastructure: established.
Growing the Relationship with the Customer
From there, the roadmap is relatively simple: Other messaging apps are selling themes, games, virtual goods inside games (strength, energy, the ability to skip levels, etc.), and other content, even actual goods. Really, the sky’s the limit.
It’s no secret, as evidenced by some substantial investments made lately. I already mentioned Rakuten, one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the world, buying Viber. Alibaba, the largest online and mobile commerce company in the world in terms of gross merchandise volume, has invested $215 million in Tango. China-based WeChat is forging ahead with innovative offerings including selling smartphones, fruits, movie tickets, taxi rides, even health insurance.
Stickers are really just the tip of the iceberg; the distant roar of the coming tsunami.
Beyond Hot Dog Emoji: Giving the People What They Want
If you’re new to the sticker bandwagon, you can get your feet wet with the BBM sticker pack, which is free in the BBM Shop. Others sell for $0.99-$1.99, and come in packs of 20-25. Packs feature all your favorite (or your kids’ or grandkids’ favorite) Disney characters from Frozen and Toy Story, as well as a dedicated pack for Mickey Mouse and Disney Villains.
You’ll also find kid’s cartoon characters Shaun the Sheep and Julius the Monkey by Paul Frank, plus lots of original characters created just for us by talented artists and illustrators. We have packs to help you cheer on sports teams and celebrate holidays, and we’re adding more every week.
We are all about giving people what they want, as evidenced by the only-in-BBM hot dog emoji.
If you have any requests for stickers, tell us about it here – We’ll look into it.