BBM Video Beta Brings iPhone and Android Cross-Platform Video Calling to Asia-Pacific

BBM video chat

We’ve been rolling out the beta version of BBM Video over the last several weeks, introducing it market-by-market around the world. The new feature gives iPhone and Android users the ability to video-call each over BBM. (Note: BlackBerry 10 users already enjoy video calls with other BlackBerry 10 users over BBM.)

I’m excited to say that BBM Video beta is now available for all our customers in the Asia-Pacific region, starting today. It should appear in your BBM automatically.

This is the final phase in our systematic rollout of the beta feature. Some people have asked why Asia-Pacific, home to our largest base of users, received the beta after other regions. The answer is that we wanted to release it in smaller markets first so we’d have the chance to address any issues that might have come up before opening it up to more traffic. The good news is that it’s stable, so we’re rolling it out globally.

How to Get Started

You don’t have to sign up or get approval to use the new cross-platform BBM Video. You do need:

  • An Android device with OS 4.4 (KitKat) or higher OR an iOS device with iOS 8 or higher
  • A BBM Contact with one of these devices

In your BBM, initiate a chat session with your contacts just like you always do, and then just tap the video icon in the upper-right corner. BBM will give you the option of making a voice or video call (provided your contact is also eligible to participate). Tap the video icon and start talking. (You might want to check that you don’t have any salad in your teeth first.)

Give it a try, and let us know what you think.

Positive Reception

The feedback and press on BBM Video has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic so far. We’ve seen a lot of thanks and praise. This has been the most-requested feature from our users, so we’re happy to bring it to you.

And please, keep the requests and feedback coming. We’ll continue to listen and build out the features you need and want. On that note…

More Coming Later This Summer

BBM video chatThis 1.0 version of BBM Video is part of a larger BBM release, currently slated for later this summer. That version will also include a couple of other exciting feature requests from users: phone number registration, improvements to group chats, and expanded message retraction for stickers, files, and other content. Plus, Android users will be able to share larger videos with their contacts. And iOS users will be able to mute chat and group notifications.

Phone-number registration has consistently been at the top of the customer request list. This new feature will allow iOS and Android users to create a BBM account with a phone number instead of an email address. This streamlines the sign-up process significantly and provides a more reliable way to secure your contact network. It also creates a more reliable method for resetting forgotten passwords, as people are moving toward having a single phone number and keeping it longer than they keep their email addresses.

Phone-number registration will also make it easier to find and add new BBM Contacts. BBM will be able to match the phone numbers of people in your device’s address book with people who have registered for BBM with their phone number. BBM will then list these contacts in your app as People You Know, meaning you can initiate a chat with them in just a few taps.

Don’t worry: we’re not doing away with PINs or Custom PINs. We’re simply adding another option for added flexibility, giving people more than one way to sign up.

Thanks again for the positive response and enthusiasm to BBM Video. Don’t forget to give it a try if you haven’t already. And stay tuned for more exciting announcements in the coming months.

Six Ways Indonesia’s Cutting-Edge Adoption of Tech and Mobile May Surprise You

Indonesia, BBM, selfie

BBM and BlackBerry are both big in Indonesia. That’s no secret. Since I live in Singapore and work for BlackBerry, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the island nation regularly in the last couple of years. I also travel to the U.S. and Canada frequently, and I’m often surprised that people in the tech industry there (outside BlackBerry, of course), don’t really have Indonesia on their radar for digital. That’s crazy. It absolutely should be.

So, I thought I’d shine some light on this tremendous market, and talk about why BBM is so excited to be a part of it as the market continues to mature.

Indonesia is already well established when it comes to e-commerce (at $12 billion in 2014, the market is estimated to rise to $25 billion this year). Even so, it’s poised for explosive growth. That’s due in part to its young, social and tech-savvy population, but also its growing middle class and ever-increasing internet connectivity.

1. Indonesians are many, highly social and connected

Home to 255 to 260 million people (depending on who you ask), Indonesia is the fourth-most populous country on Earth (after China, India and the U.S.). Indonesians are highly social, ranking fourth in the world for Facebook usage, and fifth for Twitter. (Jakarta has recently been the #1 tweet-producing city.) It’s a young country, with at least 50% of its population under the age of 30. It’s also a tech-savvy market, with 93 million internet users and 52 million smartphone users.

Most important, Indonesia is a mobile-first market, with 93% of people accessing the internet via smartphone. Indonesians have really taken to the technology, and in addition to being active on chat, they’re also enthusiastic mobile gamers and mobile shoppers.

What’s more, we’re seeing double-digit growth in most of these numbers year-over-year. Mobile is already big. It’s getting bigger. And fast.

2. Growing spending power increases business opportunities

One of the reasons for the growth is economic. Home to a consumer-based economy, Indonesia has a growing middle class, currently at about 88 million, and projected to reach 141 million by 2020.

The driver? Lower labor costs than China and other countries. That’s attracting manufacturing jobs – some have dubbed it part of a New China with regard to manufacturing opportunity. I expect to see the same kinds of growth in Indonesian consumer culture and spending as we’ve seen in China in the last couple of decades.

emme23. Increasing internet availability creates connections

The archipelago is currently the world’s fourth-largest mobile market, and is actively improving its infrastructure to support technology and mobile growth. The major mobile operators have been investing heavily in building out the country’s LTE networks in the last couple of years.

And just like in the rest of the world, the costs of devices and data plans are coming down, making smartphones and all the apps and services they bring more affordable and more accessible than ever before.

4. Ripe for innovation

Clearly, there is no shortage of opportunity here. At the same time, there are “archaic regulations,” according to this Wall Street Journal blog post, that can make it a challenging place to do business.

But that, combined with Indonesia’s famously poor infrastructure, can actually be a boon for mobile commerce, leading to innovative local solutions.

Why? Because necessity is the mother of invention. Because the internet, plus mobile devices and apps, can fill in for that missing infrastructure. Take “Emmi” (pictured here). A college student in Jakarta, she saw an opportunity to use mobile tools, her own two feet, design sense and business savvy to build a thriving shoe-sales business. Her business exists, in a way, because of poor infrastructure. It’s hard for students to get around town to get what they need, so Emmi brings what they need to them. The same business model might not work in another area. But for the students in her city, it’s the perfect solution. Brilliant. And she’s just one of the hundreds of millions of Indonesians with ideas, know-how, willpower and a growing access to technology.

5. Big-name firms are investing

Others see the opportunity too, because even with the regulations and infrastructure challenges, well-known venture capital firms – and even the Indonesian government – are investing in the local tech industry. And why not? The cost of investing is lower, and the opportunities are just as big.

6. BBM is #1. And we’re not going anywhere.

Indonesia has plenty of big, thriving tech businesses (like Lazada Indonesia and Zalora Indonesia B2C e-commerce platforms, GO-JEK (the motorbike-based courier, transport and shopping service with over 200,000 drivers nationwide) and lots of well-funded startups. Even with so much activity, the market is still relatively fragmented, with lots of room for new players. There’s no doubt we’ll continue to see new ideas and new companies come and go over the next decade at least.

For years, BBM has been the most-installed and most commonly used app in Indonesia. We are thrilled to be part of this exciting market, launching a number of new services in the last year or so (like BBM Life, BBM Checkout, plus airtime top-up, games and streaming music through the BBM Shop). We also love having a front-row seat to the market’s developments, and a role in helping the industry mature. We have big plans for Indonesia – and we know others do, too. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

Updated: BBM Video Comes to iPhone and Android Users in Canada, U.S., Latin America, Middle East AND Europe and Africa

bbm video beta(Updated June 15th with European and African availability)

BBM users have been clamoring for video calling (as you reminded me in your comments on my recent BBM: Getting Better All the Time post). We’re thrilled to announce that video calling is almost ready for primetime; we’ve launched it (see right) as a beta feature for Android and iOS, as part of the latest version of BBM. Update your BBM to get it (or if you are in Europe, Africa, Latin America or the Middle East – it should’ve started working for you automatically during the month of June).

Please note we initially limited availability because this is the first time we’re launching BBM Video calling, and we want to monitor performance, gather feedback, and iron out any kinks that may arise before we roll it out globally.

(Note: BlackBerry 10 users already enjoy video calls with other BlackBerry 10 users over BBM.)

North America

The beta video feature is available in U.S. and Canada to Android and iOS users. U.S. and Canadian BBM users now enjoy cross-platform video calling with each other.

Latin America

On June 1st, (beta) video calling arrived to iOS and Android users in 26 countries in Latin America. They include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Uruguay and Venezuela. If you are in those countries, the video chat feature should just be enabled now – no need to update your BBM software.

Middle East

We also rolled out video calling capability to users in 17 Middle Eastern countries on June 8th. Among them are Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen, and others.

As in Latin America, the feature should be enabled without you needing to update your BBM software.

Europe and Africa

BBM video debuted in 109 countries, territories and regions in Europe and Africa on June 14th. There’s too many to name here, but chances are good that BBM video is now working where you are.

As above, the feature should be enabled without you needing to update your BBM software.

Note: only video calls within the supported regions can be done today. We plan to launch BBM video calling globally in our July release.

No approval required

There’s no sign-up or approval required to use the feature. When you tap the icon to initiate a call with one of your BBM contacts, BBM will ask whether you want to make a voice call or try a video call with the beta feature (provided your contact is also eligible to participate).

Minimum requirements:

Android: OS 4.4 (KitKat) and higher

iOS: iOS 8 and higher

Transformative technology

BBM users are on-trend in their enthusiasm for video calling. A recent Pew Research study shows that in the U.S., the number of adults making video calls from their smartphones rose by double-digits from 33% in 2013 to 47% in 2015.

What’s driving the enthusiasm? Simple: mobile video conferencing is now a reality. Globally, mobile bandwidth is increasing with the rollout of 4G networks, and devices now have the cameras, software and power that make it possible. Sure, there are some scenarios where good, old-fashioned voice is the better solution. But increasingly, video is taking over as our no. 1 communication technology.

Video is the closest thing to being physically present. We know why that’s more important for personal calls—bridging the distance with our loved ones, like helping grandparents see their grandkids grow. In healthcare, doctors are using video calling to collaborate across distances and save lives, like at Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai.

In business, live video helps people put faces to names, virtually meet job candidates, make decisions in real time, and save tremendously on travel expenses. Even back in 2013, this Redshift Research study sponsored by Polycom revealed 96% of business decision makers thought that video conferencing removed distance barriers, improving productivity among teams spread across different locations. Now that video calling is a regular part of many businesses’ communication tools, anecdotally, we know that’s true.

Better than The Jetsons

It’s fun to look back at the predictions from just a few years ago about video conferencing, like this one. It makes me think of being a kid, seeing video conferencing on The Jetsons and Star Trek, and wondering if it would ever be possible. As futuristic as they were, one thing those shows didn’t predict was mobility. That would have seemed even more far-fetched! But here we are. (Though, The Jetsons are still ahead of us on the “morning mask” idea.)

BBM: Getting Better All the Time

BBM-user2

We’ve been on a roll lately with updates to BBM, launching three since last September. We’ve shared information about each of these updates when they went live. Now, I’d like to back up and take a more macro view to provide some perspective on where we are, and where we’re going with BBM.

We’re continuing to listen to our customers and build more of the most-requested features into BBM. We’re evolving group and multi-person chats. We’re making BBM Protected an even better messaging solution for security-conscious organizations. We’re giving you ever more privacy and security by allowing you to control previews. We’re also working to make BBM more convenient and more fun.

More Privacy and Security

We know security and privacy are important to you, so many of our recent features fall under this umbrella.

In September, we rolled out screenshot notification within private chats, which alert you if a BBM contact takes a screenshot of your conversation.

Then in December we added the option to delete messages from your device only, without others’ knowledge, on Android and iOS. For those of you with our Privacy and Control subscription, we also added the ability to retract photos within chats on all platforms, and entire chat sessions on Android and iOS.

In January, we gave you the ability to control notification previews for Android. Look for more of these types of features in the coming months.

More Options in BBM Protected

high-priorty-message-high-resOn a related note, we released several important enhancements to our BBM Protected service that makes messaging secure enough for governments and other regulated industries. Those include:

  • High-priority messages: You can now tag high-priority messages within a chat
  • Team chats: You can define a chat subject and invite team members to join
  • Delivered and read notifications: Multi-person chats now show these status notifications
  • Restricted copy and paste: IT admins can prevent employees from copying and pasting within BBM chats

More Control for Group and Multi-Person Chats

Messaging can be such a great way to share information and get to decisions quickly, whether among a group of friends or colleagues. We’re continuing to add all the features you love in 1:1 chats to multi-person and group chats on Android and iOS, including message retraction and editing.

More Convenience

We envision BBM being at the center of your mobile life, so we’re outfitting it with useful services, integration with other technology and simply adding features that make it easier to do what you want quickly.

In the useful services category, we’ve added a number of payment platforms to BBM within the last year, including BBM Money in Indonesia; Interswitch Ltd in Nigeria; PayPal payments in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US; and Pingit in the UK. And in December, we made it easier for you to find your BBM contacts by being able to request a Glympse within a 1:1 chat.

BBM-AppleWatchAs for integration with other technology, September brought Apple Watch support. You can view, respond to and send BBM messages from your Apple Watch. Then in December, we added iPhone 6s 3D touch support, allowing you to use a firm press on the BBM icon to quickly send a message, update your status or profile picture, or initiate a search from the home screen.

Speaking of search, that feature debuted in December, giving you the ability to search BBM chats, contacts, groups and Channels. Other streamlining features for Android users include the ability to send a broadcast message to an entire contact category (previously available on iOS and BlackBerry 10 only; also added in December), and the ability to scroll through group picture galleries, added in January.

More Fun

Messaging is fun. That’s a big reason people love it so much. We’re serious about making BBM more secure, useful, dynamic and convenient, but we’re also serious about making it more fun.

In September, we launched our Sticker Club, which gives subscribers access to hundreds of sticker packs.  We also extended the option to customize the order of sticker packs for those of you on Android. (It was already available on iOS and BlackBerry 10.) Also for Android users, we now enable you to customize the font within BBM.

We also added two new social features. The ability to view, like and comment on group pictures and other events within Feeds launched in September. And the option to like Feeds posts came in December, allowing you to see a “thumbs up” icon next to your contacts’ posts. If you like a post, your contact receives a notification, also within Feeds (currently only on Android and iOS).

More On The Way

Messaging continues to be one of the most popular ways to communicate. As more people use it for more things, we’ll keep growing and evolving our app and the services within it. I’m looking forward to finding out what we’ll come up with together next.

BBM Sticker Design Contest Now Open in Nigeria

stickamania2Hey, BBM fans: Do you sticker? If so, you’re definitely in good company! Since BBM stickers were launched in 2014, millions of BBM users have used stickers to add personality and flair to their messages.

Since creative expression is at the heart of BBM stickers, last year we launched a series of BBM sticker contests to allow people around the world to design BBM stickers based on unique characters and local interests. Winning designers get cash prizes and the opportunity for their stickers to joins the thousands of BBM stickers available in the BBM Shop.

Our contests last year in Indonesia and South Africa were super popular – more than 7,000 entries were received in our first Indonesia contest in July, and we’ve just announced the winners of our December contests in South Africa and Indonesia.

But now it’s Nigeria’s turn to show its creative side! BBM Stickamania Nigeria is now open, and we want to see your most creative, expressive sticker ideas.

If you’re a Nigerian illustrator, designer or creative talent who wants to enter the contest, visit bbmstickamania.com to learn more, read the design guide and register. Here are a few other key details:

  • bbm sticker contest 2Sticker packs must be submitted by February 12.
  • The voting period is from February 8 to February 19.
  • Contestants should encourage their friends and family to vote online for their sticker pack, as well as promote what they have created via social media.
  • The 20 sticker packs with the most votes will be judged by the BBM jury, who will select the Top 3 winners and 10 runners-up Nigerian’s BBM Stickamania.
  • Winners will be awarded with massive cash prizes going from 25,000 to 500,000 Naira. Voters also stand a chance to win 10,000 Naira Airtime Recharge.

BBM stickers are especially popular in Africa. “In Africa, the BBM Shop gets over 20 million views each month and has tallied 60 million total stickers sent and received,” said Matthew Talbot, SVP, BBM, at BlackBerry. “This contest opens the doors for more talented artists and designers to make their own unique stickers come to life in BBM, and we are hoping to see huge enthusiasm in Nigeria.”

Do you think you can win? Then get creative, design your stickers, submit them and tell your friends and family to vote for you!

For further information about the BBM Stickamania Terms & Conditions, please visit: http://bbmstickamania.com/

How BBM Helps a Home Business Owner Sell More Shoes Than A Mall Store

emme2Entrepreneurs can be so ingenious. I’ve been traveling to Indonesia recently, a key market for BBM, and have been amazed at how small business owners are pulling together messaging and a few different new technologies to do some really innovative things. With little more than a smartphone and a strong work ethic, they are building a thriving e-commerce market.

We keep hearing that Indonesia is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world. Interacting with small entrepreneurs is so much more exciting than reading about it, so I want to share the stories of a few people I’ve met.

“Emmi” is one such success story. A college student, she has built a business selling shoes – to the tune of 100-150 pairs per day – possibly more than a typical store in the mall.

Emmi posts photos of her shoes on Instagram and takes orders through BBM and other messaging apps. Customers pay via bank transfer. She then packages up the shoes and delivers them through Sicepat, a courier service.

A born entrepreneur, Emmi learned about the importance of customer service by helping her parents in their Jakarta hawker stand after school. Growing up, she saw business opportunities everywhere, selling her friend’s homemade bags, her neighbor’s kittens, airtime to high school friends, you name it. When she got to college, she saw an opportunity to outfit her fellow students with shoes.

For the first few years, Emmi walked, motorcycled or took public transportation to wholesalers around Jakarta – even as far as Bogor, 59 kilometers away – to buy her merchandise, and then transport it back home in big bags. She has always been able to offer very competitive prices because she buys direct and keeps the stock in her house. She also takes her own photos to use on Instagram.

After only a few years, Emmi has built her business to the point that she now employs all of her immediate family members and bought herself a car to make transportation easier.

Messaging is central to Emmi’s business. She negotiates over messaging, she keeps in touch with her customers via messaging, she reaches out to her new customers via messaging, and provides support via messaging and phone calls. The customer and entrepreneur are connected over messaging. For a small entrepreneur in the business of selling goods or services, messaging is becoming the key for discovery, communication, payment and shipment. BBM provides an ecosystem for such entrepreneurs to thrive.

BBM Channels are a great place for these kinds of interactions. Channels are a social networking feature inside BBM where consumers can connect to the merchants and brands they like, in a separate space from where we chat with friends, family and colleagues. Some of BBM’s most popular channels are specifically for “Shopping Deals.” Small businesses post bargains. The posts show in customers’ feeds and customers can click through to buy directly from there.

Channels also work well for customer service. A channel owner can enable chat for his or her channel and communicate with customers. As Emmi says, “the most important thing in online business is trust from the customers. Things that make our customers trust us are testimonials and good customer service. Those are the two most important things for me, because with good customer service people will buy more. Usually my customers order more than once.”

Social media allows new entrepreneurs to reach lots of people on a shoestring budget. Messaging specifically allows them to connect, communicate and service their customers. Additional services supported within the messaging application ecosystem – like mobile payments and delivery services – cover the basic logistics. And when merchants don’t see their customers face-to-face to build relationships (like they do at hawker stands in the streets) messaging is filling that gap, providing a way to connect one-to-one.

BBM Sticker Update: Free Minion Pack and Contests in South Africa, Nigeria and UAE

BBM Stickers Minions Emoji

Everyone needs Minions, those little yellow creatures from the Despicable Me movie franchise that starred in their own flick last summer. Minions live to serve their masters. Now, they live to serve you, as a free sticker pack in BBM.

Minions add to our ever-growing collection of over 600 sticker packs in the BBM Shop. See all the Minions stickers here. And, keep checking back to get the latest packs. We add more every week.

Design your own BBM stickers: Contests happening now!

Stickers are all the rage these days. To help fuel the demand, we’re giving you the chance to get your own stickers into the BBM Shop! Over the next few months, we’re hosting BBM sticker contests in four of our largest BBM markets: Indonesia and South Africa in December, Nigeria and UAE in early 2016. The contests will add to the growing catalog of creative stickers our customers love to share.

We hosted a successful contest in Indonesia in July 2015, receiving over 7 thousand entries submitted from all over the country. (Read about the designer of July’s winning sticker pack here.) We just closed entries for our second BBM Sticker Contest for Indonesians, so keep an eye out for the announcement of the winner!

We’re also running our first “BBM Stickathon” in South Africa right now, with entries due December 16. The BBM Stickathon offers South Africans the chance to create stickers based on unique characters and win a range of exciting design prizes, as well as the opportunity for the stickers to be made available for download from the BBM Shop.

BBM_Anniversary_Sticker_Party_DecorIn the first quarter of calendar year 2016, we’ll open similar contests in Nigeria and UAE. If you’re an illustrator or designer, or have talented friends and family members in any of these countries, encourage them to learn more and submit their designs online.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the short-listing and judging process!

Stickers by the numbers

Launched in 2014, BBM stickers have become one of the most important and interesting components of BBM. With BBM stickers, users can chat with friends or family in a unique and interesting way. There are literally thousands of stickers you can share on BBM today, giving you a fun way to express yourself.

Stickers are increasingly popular worldwide. Here are some fun facts about BBM stickers:

  • 5 billion: Number of stickers sent and received each month on BBM
  • Tens of millions: Number of people who send stickers daily
  • Weekends: When people buy and send the most stickers (Thursday through Sunday)
  • Millions and millions: How many people download our free, branded sticker packs – like Minions!

Be sure to download the free Minions sticker pack in your BBM, spread the word about our upcoming contests, and keep an eye out for the new crowd-sourced stickers appearing in your BBM Shop soon.

Why BBM Is Thriving in Nigeria and South Africa

Back in August, I visited South Africa and spent some time with a number of BlackBerry’s mobile operator partners, BBM’s advertising and content partners and some payment providers we were considering for partnership opportunities. Having spent many years working with South African mobile operators and banks in past roles, I have always been amazed at the potential of the market there. But on this trip, I learned something new about the value of the BlackBerry and BBM brands both in South Africa in particular and across the entire continent in general. It’s big. That’s particularly exciting because of all the growth we’ve been seeing in this market in the last few years.

BBM Growth in Africa

Leaps and Bounds

Africa is clearly a mobile-first market, with the majority of people accessing the internet from mobile rather than desktop devices. We’re also seeing many people coming online for the first time in recent years, so BBM has seen quite a bit of growth.

Today, we have over 22 million registered customers in Africa, so it continues to be a strong market for us. Nigeria and South Africa are our two top markets in Africa (as I blogged about earlier this year here and here), and we continue to see strength in our user base across Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10 and BBOS. On iOS and Android, we see over half a million new users install BBM every single month. That growth rate continues to accelerate as network effects take root in several markets across the continent.

With close to 10 million visits to the BBM Shop per month, and now over 26 million ad requests per day, Africa is also now starting to become a key market for rolling out our monetization strategy. We have recently put our first ad sales representative on the ground, and I’m confident there will be more to follow.

Local Traffic in the BBM Shop

In Africa, the BBM Shop gets over 20 million views each month and has tallied 60 million total stickers sent and received. The Shop features more than 25 sticker packs tailored to the African market, like Naija Slang. This focus on local and relevant content helps drive the high numbers.

Naija Slangs BBM Stickers

We’re also very excited to have launched our first sponsored sticker pack in the region for the Orijin beverage brand.

BBM Payment Options in the Works

We’re excited to announce we’ll be expanding our mobile payment initiatives into Africa, commencing in Nigeria. BlackBerry has partnered with Interswitch Ltd, Nigeria’s largest payment processor, to enable any Nigerian to transfer money or airtime within BBM, as simply as they transfer photos or files.

two african men mobile shopping on tablet

Separately, we are also expanding BBM Shop payment options. We’ll soon include the Firstmonie mobile wallet, which is provided by Nigeria’s largest bank, First Bank of Nigeria Limited. We’re also teaming up with Mobile Media Info Tech (MMIT), a Nigerian company working to revolutionize mobile payments, to bring secure payments to the BBM Shop.

Over the coming weeks, we will also be announcing other exciting developments in South Africa. Coupled with our Indonesian BBM Money and PayPal initiatives, we’re quickly establishing BBM as a leading messaging platform for mobile payments.

Great Ad Performance

The advertising markets in South Africa and Nigeria represent two of our biggest global opportunities. Both markets generate substantial daily ad requests, which is reflected in the pricing and performance of the ad units. Although both are seen as developing economies, they are some of our top revenue-generating markets. Additionally, our average click-through rates of 5% are among the highest we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Big-name brands such as KFC, Levi’s, Datsun, First National Bank and Lenovo move onto the platform each week. We currently onboard an average of 50 individual advertiser campaigns each month across this vibrant and exciting market.

In our two biggest African markets, BBM has the local content and value-added services like payments to keep consumers engaged and attract advertisers. It’s quickly turning these ingredients into a thriving platform for communication and commerce.

BBM Advertisers Are Capitalizing on the Shift From Holiday Shopping Marathons to Moments

mobile-holiday-shop

Holiday shopping is shifting from “marathons” to “moments,” Google revealed on its Inside AdWords blog recently. Instead of crack-of-dawn pilgrimages and daylong missions, people are using their mobiles to take advantage of free minutes here and there – waiting for a train, standing in line for coffee – to get through their lists. The historically big shopping days are becoming smaller, both online and off. (Except for Singles’ Day! More on that below.)

As consumers, our shopping sessions are shorter and more focused. We’re using the mobile channel to discover products, learn about them, and buy them. Mobile shopping is steadily growing in the UK, US, China and elsewhere, widely predicted to soon become the biggest piece of the e-commerce pie.

Singles’ Day is the exception – but increasingly mobile

Singles’ DayiStock_000071052995_Medium

is a celebration of being single. It originated in China among college students as a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day, with the general idea being that single people should treat themselves to a bargain for the occasion. It’s now spreading to other Asian countries with Chinese populations.

In the last few years, it has become the biggest online shopping day in the world. Singles’ Day is therefore bucking the trend that Google cites, of historically big shopping days becoming smaller. (This year, online marketplace Alibaba reported $14.32 billion in sales, making it the biggest online shopping day ever.)

But Singles’ Day traffic is right in line with the other trend: the shift to mobile. This year, 73% of purchases made on Alibaba in the first hour came via mobile, and 68% of overall sales.

It’s all part of the larger trend of people spending more time on mobile than on any other channel. And where the people go, advertisers follow.

BBM bustling for the holidays

That’s what we’re seeing this year in BBM: increased activity from advertisers and consumers. We served our first ads in BBM in July 2015, and introduced video in September. Our busy ad marketplace has ramped up at lighting speed to over 1 billion ad requests every day by October. Now the number is over 1.4 billion.

Helping that growth is a steady stream of new campaigns from e-commerce companies Blibli, Elevenia, Lazada, OLX, Qoo10, Rakuten and Tokopedia. We’ve also seen a lot of interest in our sponsored sticker packs from consumers and brands. Recently, we’ve added:bunny

  • Le Lapin Duracell, a holiday-themed Duracell sticker pack targeted to French users
  • MasterCard Rugby Emoji, a Rugby World Cup 2015 sticker pack targeted to the UK
  • Orijin Emoji Keyboard, promoting the Origin beverage in Nigeria
  • Toko Fashion Online, a fashion shopping sticker pack from Zalora targeted to Indonesians

Putting payment in place

This massive shift to the mobile channel is why we’re hard at work making it easier to shop on BBM. We’re already helping consumers and brands connect in meaningful ways. Now, we’re working on launching one-click payments in our top markets.

We recently updated BBM Pay, which includes BBM Money, which provides instant mobile payments, as well as credit card and bank transfer services to users of the app on all major platforms in Indonesia – the second-fastest e-commerce growth market in the world. Next, we’re looking to provide similar services in Africa and the Middle East.

Why one-click payments? Amazon pioneered one-click payments in the ’90s, making it faster than ever to get what you needed. Apple licensed the patent for its iTunes store, which effectively became one of the first successful mobile payment processes with the launch of iPhone. One-click payments are a big reason Über and similar services are so popular.

Simply put: one-click purchasing reduces barriers to purchase, which as any marketer knows, is a sure-fire way to increase sales.

As consumers enthusiastically embrace mobile shopping, we’ll continue to spur things along, providing the tools consumers want to connect with the brands they care about, to take advantage of shopping moments throughout their days and easily make purchases.

Want to Avoid Getting ‘Smished’? BBM Is the Answer

Shot of a handsome young man using his mobile phone while sitting at a restaurant table

Texting has become one of those “what did we ever do without it?” technological conveniences. In a 2011 article about third-world countries’ increasing reliance on feature phones, The Atlantic called it “the most important information service in the world.” Coke said texting was its number-one advertising priority.

And now, predictably, hackers are taking an interest. Mixed in with legit messages and the occasional ad, many users – especially those using vulnerable free mobile messaging services – are getting “smished.”

Smishes (a combination of the words “SMS” and “phishing”) are texts and mobile instant messages that infect the phone with malware or trick users into subscribing to a questionable third-party service that starts showing up on the monthly phone bill as a hard-to-spot extra charge.

Smishing works because it usually preys on people’s fears or greed. Some phishing texts claim your credit card has been deactivated and ask you to call a number to reactivate it – where you’re asked for confidential information that leads to identity theft. Other scam texts claim you’ve won a free (and fake) vacation, lottery, gift card or other prize, then subscribe you to expensive paid services when you click the link in the text to “redeem” your “winnings.”

(To avoid another possible hazard – malware-ridden iOS apps – read our recent how-to guide).

WhatsApp Messenger users have been targeted by phishing texts allegedly offering WhatsApp Voice Calls, WhatsApp Spy upgrades or a completely fictional WhatsApp voicemail feature. But, rather than giving you the feature you expected, clicking on the text’s link secretly signs you up for expensive third-party services that you learn about only when you get your next cell phone bill and see the outrageous charges. WhatsApp does offer advice in its FAQ about these scams and what you should do if you fall victim to one of them.

BBM Secures Your Mobile Messages

bbm ui 2015But why not avoid them altogether? Most free messaging services use your cell phone number as your messaging contact number. That makes it simple for advertisers or thieves to text unsuspecting users; all they need are cell phone numbers harvested from the Internet.

However, if you use BBM as your messaging service, you don’t have to worry about smishing or hacking. Why? For one thing, BBM contacts are based on personal identification numbers (PINs), rather than cell phone numbers, so mined phone number data won’t help a scammer reach you. Also, BBM relationships are bidirectional (i.e., both users have to authenticate one another as a contact), and inner circle and outer circles are clearly demarcated so the user can control who to interact with (or not).

Finally, BBM adds several layers of security and message identity that text messaging and other mobile messaging services lack. These include password protection for invitation messages and block list or black lists that move with the user, rather than being tied to a specific device. Users can also require others sending them connection invitations to answer a security question first.

Although BBM comes on all BlackBerry phones, you don’t have to own a BlackBerry phone to use it. The free downloadable app is cross-platform, also available for iOS, Android and Windows smartphones, so anyone can enjoy its security. No one-trick pony, BBM offers a host of other popular IM features in addition to texting: group chats; photo and video sharing; the social network BBM Channels; voice; BBM Meetings videoconferencing; stickers and emoticons; and even a retraction capability.

Need more security? BBM Protected is an even more secure version of BBM, designed for security-conscious enterprises. It offers an extra layer of encryption that protects data both in transit and at rest, and message logging and auditing through BlackBerry’s enterprise mobility management software, BES12. Unlike other corporate IM solutions, however, BBM Protected is user friendly, letting users chat not only with fellow employees but also friends and family.

(Thanks to Shiladitya Sircar, Senior Director of BBM Development, for his expert input.)