US-based chat-commerce solutions ShopChat debuted today with a US$1.25 million funding led by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, with participation from several undisclosed angel investors from Silicon Valley and Europe.

ShopChat is a “mobile shopping keyboard” that allows users to shop in e-commerce platforms while engaging in conversations inside a messenger app.

Claiming itself to be “the first in the world” to launch such product, ShopChat allows users to share the products that they are about to purchase with the people they are having conversation with, and shop directly without having to open a mobile e-commerce app.

Available for iOS devices, ShopChat works just like third party emoji keyboards inside a messenger app.

Image Credit: ShopChat

It claimed to have attracted 100,000 users in its beta phase with over 32 per cent of users sharing a product with a friend in a session. The app is working for major messenger apps such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Whatsapp, WeChat, Google Chat, Kik Messenger, Tango, and Line.

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The patent-pending product was created under the idea that while shopping bots are deemed as the future of e-commerce, and companies such as Facebook have invested heavily in chat bots, users “remain unmoved” by the experience of chatting with a robot.

“No one really wants to talk to a computer, any more than they want to talk to a voice response system. That’s been the problem with shopping bots. What people really want is a better way to share products with friends, and to be able to buy right from chat, where they are already spending most of their time,” said ShopChat CEO and Co-Founder Zephrin Lasker in a press statement.

“ShopChat makes it easy for people to share products with friends and shop together, and see a broad selection of products instantly as they browse without having to leave their chat app,” he added.

The ShopChat platform is available as a consumer-facing app and a white label solution for businesses.

The startup provides white-label chat commerce solution for messaging app Viber, which recently launched an e-commerce button that will present users with items to purchase, based on the content of their messages.

Rakuten itself had acquired for US$900 million in February 2014.

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Based in San Francisco with seven employees, ShopChat plans to use the new funding to develop new features, grow its engineering and product team, and expanding into new markets.

“The US is just a start; we’ll be rolling out in the EMEA over the next six quarters,” said Lasker, also stating that the startup is targetting one million users by mid-to-end 2017.