BBM is a crucial part of BlackBerry’s potential comeback in the coming years. In order to successfully turn the company back to its profitable state, the team that leads the world’s pioneer in messaging will have to figure out a way to make it make money.
BBM monetization is important because right now, BBM is a part of BlackBerry that is only consuming resources but not producing them in a way that can be reflected on a balance sheet. The company looks to change this by introducing some new products in the coming weeks and months.
This past Thursday, Niko and I got the chance to talk to a couple of BBM’s most talented execs: David Proulx, Senior Director of BBM Business Development for BlackBerry, and Jeff Gadway, BBM Product Manager. We got a chance to discuss the four mains areas in which the company believes BBM can make some money.
- Stickers and the BBM Shop
- BBM Channels through sponsored content
- eBBM Suite for Enterprise Customers
- BBM Money
Stickers and the BBM Shop
BlackBerry will be launching a BBM update soon which introduces a new storefront within the app called BBM Shop. Along with the BBM Shop, sticker packs will be available to download and purchase for sharing with friends. Some of you reading this may already be in the beta that’s testing out these new features. Proulx assures us that’s not the only type of product we’ll see in the BBM Shop over the longterm though.
While we weren’t provided specifics, both Gadway and Proulx assured us the BBM Shop will provide goods that are “focused on adding value or utility to the BBM experience. The BBM Shop will not be a yard sale.”
For now, BlackBerry is working with different commissioned artists, and branded partners to get their content in the BBM Shop in an orderly fashion. The goal is to get content added to the shop on a regular basis, and not all in one shot. The BBM team has a content calendar set for a pretty good amount of time after the official public release.
Currently, selling items within the BBM Shop is reserved for only these partners BlackBerry is working with closely, but will later open up to developers and artists alike. “Before we get there, we want to make sure the experience is good,” said Proulx when asked why this was the case for the BBM Shop for now.
While this may be the area which most would scoff at and assume BBM is wasting time, I could personally see the BBM Shop having a ton of success adding different kinds of goods for sale within the actual app.
BBM Channels and sponsored content
Advertising is that ugly word that those of us that use free social services and apps hate having to talk about. In order to make money though, sometimes it’s a necessary evil to get some type of advertising in your products.
BBM is taking on advertising in a much more consumer-friendly way though. At least, that’s what it’s looking like right now. With the launch of the upcoming update, users will begin to see sponsored content, so it’s important to know exactly what you will be getting.
Sponsored content on BBM Channels will function in a few different ways:
- Featured Channels
- Sponsored BBM Channel invites
- Sponsored content in your BBM Updates
To do this, BlackBerry will be holding the keys to the content that gets pushed to its BBM users. Brands and companies will not be able to bombard as many users as they want with Channel invites or unsolicited posts. Instead, the BBM team hopes to build the bridge between brands/advertisers and the people that are genuinely looking for that content, and may just not have known it was accessible to them.
During the beta that’s still going on right now, the PGA TOUR’s official BBM Channel has been sending some beta users the above invite to subscribe to their channel. As you can see, the invite is clearly labeled as sponsored and can be accepted or declined right away.
If you’re a golf fan, this would have probably been an invite you’d accept, and if not, you decline it. Plain and simple. The fact that BBM controls its sponsored content, ensures you won’t get more than three invites like this a month. On top of that, over time, the idea is to push content to you that you are more likely to be interested in, so that you end up accepting more invites than you decline.
eBBM Suite for Enterprise Customers and BBM Protected
BlackBerry believes all enterprise users are consumers at heart. As such, business users want one consistent experience both in the work environment and during their down time at home. BBM competitors in the enterprise world, like Microsoft’s Lync, handle the business side well, but since they’re not a consumer product, any user that wants to message family or friends with Lync is totally out of luck. This is not the case with BBM, a tool that is both available to consumers and corporate users alike.
Being mobile first, also enables BlackBerry to have the ability to add to BBM and grow it more in the coming months and years. That fact has already been made evident with the announcement of the upcoming eBBM Suite launch, and its first solution BBM Protected.
That added security layer that will be provided to corporate users with BBM Protected will be of great benefit. While BBM itself is already the most secure consumer messaging app out there, some companies require even more safety precautions and security measures for their IMing needs. How will BBM Protected do this while looking and feeling like regular BBM to its users?
Jeff Gadway compared this type of security with BBM Protected to secure email. As a BlackBerry employee, an email sent to another BlackBerry employee through their network has a much higher security level than when he emails someone at Outlook.com, for example. The emailing process is the same in both instances though. The user doesn’t worry about security levels because that’s taken care of for them. The same is true with BBM Protected. A corporate user using BBM Protected “will have different levels of security within the same BBM contact list. One solution for everything.” They can message their friends and loved ones with BBM’s regular security levels, and their colleagues and bosses with an extra layer of encryption for those specific contacts. It’s completely seamless.
BBM Money hasn’t seen the light of day in the western world, but we were assured that it’s being looked at very closely as another source of income for BBM. This last resource is the least known, and the one that’s the most curious to me.
“Because we are by nature private and secure and reliable and regulatory compliant, we are ideally suited to bring value in mobile money and financial services,” David Proulx said. People value their money tremendously, so the security play BBM has on the competition can definitely help it exploit this area.
BlackBerry still has a lot of work to do to get BBM on the same level as the WhatsApps of the world. With all the security and privacy concerns that have been created over the past couple of years, the BBM team can definitely drive their app into the hearts of consumers and corporate users alike if they play their cards right.