Hoping to usher in a new age of communication and commerce, Facebook is officially inviting brands and other businesses to build bots for its Messenger service.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the widely anticipated announcement at the company’s F8 Developer Conference, on Tuesday. But, Zuckerberg let his executives do most of the talking.
“I can guarantee that you’re going to spend way more money than you want on this,” David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products, told F8 attendees, on Tuesday.
Marcus was referring to all the money he expected consumers to spend, thanks to Messenger’s new bot-enabled ecommerce features. Yet, he might as well have been talking to the many brands and businesses that will now need to invest resources into their bot strategy.
Of course, Marcus and his colleagues promise to make the transition to bots as painless as possible, and insist that marketers will ultimately improve their customer service and commerce abilities at significantly lower costs.
To that end, Facebook is encouraging partners to reimage their consumer-facing business in terms of bots. Directly within Messenger, they can already provide automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates; customized communications like receipts and shipping notifications; and even live automated messages.
Not wasting any time, a number of business partners are already showing off their new bots.
A new Fandango bot, for instance, is providing prompts for moviegoers to locate nearby theaters, and movies playing at those theaters, along with trailers, film synopses, ratings, run times and direct access to advance ticketing. Additional launch partners include 1-800 Flowers and CNN.
With regard to bots, customer services experts say brands would be wise to follow Facebook’s lead.
“Facebook is poised to [become] a one-stop shop for consumers to make purchases, connect with brands and consume content,” said Scott Horn, CMO at customer service provider 7.
If not quite as ubiquitous as telephone numbers, Messenger can already reach many consumers. Worldwide, the app now has more than 900 million monthly users, by Facebook’s count. Roughly 50 million businesses now use Messenger for various purposes.
Released on Tuesday, a new Messenger Send / Receive API will support sending and receiving text, but also images and interactive rich bubbles containing multiple calls-to-action.
Developers can also set a welcome screen for their threads to set context as well as different controls. All developers and businesses will have access to documents to build bots for Messenger, and submit them for review. “We will gradually accept and approve submissions to ensure the best experiences for everyone on Messenger,” Marcus said in related blog post.
Facebook has also built new discovery tools such as plug-ins for Web sites, usernames and Messenger Codes, as well as a prominent search surface in Messenger.
Additionally, Facebook News Feed ads will now enable the opening of threads on Messenger, while a new customer-matching feature will allow messages that are usually sent through SMS to be sent on Messenger.