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'The future of commerce is chat commerce,' says Finder.com co-founder

Max Zahn
Reporter

Text message groups are a missed opportunity for retailers, says tech entrepreneur and Finder.com co-founder Fred Schebesta.

“The future of commerce is chat commerce,” says Schebesta, 38, in a newly released interview, taped on March 2. “Right now, before we're going to buy something, we text each other or we WhatsApp each other, and we ask little questions,” he adds. “We've got this piece of information and we've researched that. But then we can quickly get an answer right now from our social groups.”

A purchase may soon be just a text message away — or at least available after a short navigation within one’s messaging app. That latter capability is already available for smartphone app users abroad, Schebesta said.

He pointed to the Chinese app WeChat, which allows users to exchange messages with friends and family but also to browse for and purchase products. WeChat announced in 2018 that it had hit 1 billion monthly active users. Gojek — an Indonesian app that said last year it had nearly 30 million monthly active users in Indonesia alone, according to Reuters — offers ride-hailing, delivery, and streaming entertainment services, among others.

“Our thesis is that there will be a meta service,” he says. “One app that you eventually go to. This is starting to happen in China, Indonesia with Gojek, and WeChat.”

“We call them meta apps,” he adds.

Last year, Facebook (FB) introduced e-commerce tools within apps Instagram and WhatsApp. In March, Instagram added a shopping feature that allows users to pay within the app for items they come across in advertisements. A few months later, in November, WhatsApp added a catalogue feature that allows small businesses to display their products — though users must purchase the items elsewhere.

Schebesta made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

In 2006, at age 26, Schebesta founded Finder.com, an Australia-based comparison shopping website that now operates in 83 countries and employs 310 people full-time, Schebesta says. Last October, the Australian Financial Review ranked Schebesta — who lives in Sydney — as the 22nd richest Australian under 40 years old, with a net worth of $193 million.

Fred Schebesta, the co-founder of Finder.com, appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

Schebesta said that tech platforms, like other popular services, have attracted third-party companies that build upon the services’ capabilities.

“Every service in every industry goes through this phase, where there are providers,” he says. “Then what next happens is that you actually get these layers of services on top that aggregate the services below.”

He cited Finder.com as a product that builds atop the likes of Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY), since Finder.com helps users compare prices they might otherwise find across the web.

“What we're talking about is when you go to buy, and in that user journey, there's actually a part that sits above it, which is about awareness, and consideration, and comparison,” he says. “Then you go and buy.”

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