Roughly five months after Facebook Inc. opened its Messenger app to let retailers and brands to build e-commerce-enabled chat bots, the social network today launched Messenger Platform v1.2. The updated platform gives retailers more tools to drive shoppers to buy and makes it easier for shoppers to complete purchases through Facebook.
Facebook says this month it is launching its latest attempt to drive e-commerce sales on its messaging platform, which is available as a stand-alone mobile app, as well as within the Facebook desktop site. When a retailer creates an ad that will appear within the Facebook news feed, the merchant can now drive a consumer to open Messenger when the shopper clicks the ad’s call-to-action button, such as Shop Now or Learn More.
That click will open a Messenger thread with either a copy of the ad or a message that the retailer crafts. Similar to existing Facebook ads, developers and businesses will have the option to select their target audiences and delivery times. By opening the Messenger thread rather than driving the consumer off of Facebook, the social network aims to keep the entire transaction within the Facebook ecosystem.
To make it more likely that shoppers and retailers use Messenger as an e-commerce platform, Facebook today began allowing Messenger chat bots to accept payments without sending users to an external website. A chat bot is interactive software that uses artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation.
Consumers will be able to use payment card information that they store in Facebook or Messenger to pay for purchases within Messenger. Facebook says several retailers are taking part in a test of the system; other merchants looking to take part in the test can apply on the Messenger developer web page. Facebook says it plans to roll out this capability more broadly by the end of the year.
The payments functionality represents a marked step forward for the social network as it previously pushed consumers to retailers’ websites to pay. “We are … simplifying the payment and checkout experience in order to reduce the overall friction between wanting something and getting it,” Facebook writes in a blog post.
Facebook says it aims to help consumers overcome any uncertainty about interacting with a retailer’s bot on Messenger by rolling out a new welcome screen that gives consumers information about the experience the merchant offers within the bot. Merchants can customize the content within that screen.
Facebook also is making it easier for users to share bots they discover. Users can share individual messages with their friends by clicking on a share icon attached to a message bubble. The idea is that a consumer can use the feature to share products or various options with friends to ask for their opinions, Facebook says.
“We believe the potential for the Messenger Platform is huge and we continue to invest in making it better for developers to build and create,” Facebook writes.
Facebook says 34,000 developers have joined the Messenger platform and they have built 30,000 bots. That’s a significant jump from the 11,000 bots that Facebook noted were on Messenger in July.