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Messaging App Tango Debuts Shopping Feature With Walmart, AliExpress

Tango is sharing sales revenue with partners Walmart and AliExpress.


Tango, the messaging app known for free video and phone calls, now lets users buy and browse goods within the app when they’re not using it to communicate with friends.

The new feature, called Tango Shop, exists as a tab within the app that features a curated list of products from two major retailers: Walmart and Alibaba’s AliExpress. (Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba invested $250 million in Tango last March.) Tango has a revenue share agreement with both companies, but wouldn’t share details.

When a user opens Tango Shop, they’ll see a list of products selected by Tango editors, and can also search for items from both retailers. The curated list will eventually be personalized for each user based on prior purchases and search queries, but it will also include season-specific goods, said Tango VP of Product Chi-Chao Chang.

The idea is that people already chat about shopping — you may call your brother to talk about Mother’s Day gift ideas, for example — and Tango wants to make it simple to turn that conversation into an actual purchase.

Building a store likes this helps differentiate Tango from rival communications services like Facebook’s Messenger and Snapchat. Both of those companies have created payment systems that let users pay each other, but don’t offer shopping the way Tango now does.

“We think payments is a means to an end,” he explained. “People don’t wake up every day thinking about who they are going to pay. They wake up every day thinking about who they are going to talk to and about buying something for themselves or someone else.”

The partnership with a mainstream retailer like Walmart was also strategic. Chang says it fits well with Tango’s core user base, which he described as “middle class” Americans. The app has 300 million users (not all of them necessarily active), and the U.S. is the company’s largest market.

“We are trying to get the mom and pop who are [technologically] unsophisticated but talk every day,” Chang explained.

Adding shopping and retail integration to a messaging app isn’t unheard of. WeChat, Tencent’s uber-popular messaging service from China, offers all kinds of services beyond just messaging to Chinese users (including shopping). It’s a trend that others in the United States, including Messenger, are starting to emulate. Facebook just rolled out its Messenger platform in March, and now lets people track packages from specific retailers through the app. It’s a real possibility that shopping might be next.

Kik, another messaging app popular in North America, particularly among teens, offers a promoted chat feature so brands can actually message users on the app.

Chang says that Tango’s commerce features will continue to expand before the year is out. In addition to adding more retailers, Chang says Tango is going to add a feature for peer-to-peer selling — in other words, a Craigslist-like service where you can use your geographic location to sell your used goods, or buy your neighbors’.

“If you’re looking for a bike, there’s new bikes and there’s used bikes,” said Chang. “We want to offer options to our buyers.”

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