Facebook is set to make a big commerce splash with the launch of new features that would commerce-enable its Messenger app.
The tech giant is reportedly planning to feature advanced commerce tools for its Messenger service at its F8 developer conference, which is being held in San Francisco on April 12 and 13. The new tools will be powered by Facebook’s chatbot technology, which will enable its 900 million users to order goods and services within the app, according to The Wall Street Journal.
After opening its Messenger API to outside developers, Facebook is reportedly working with a host of merchants to provide new in-app capabilities, such as responding to customer queries and providing shipping updates. Earlier, Facebook featured 1-800-Flowers.com as a potential use case for Messenger’s enhanced eCommerce capabilities. Through its partnership, 1-800-Flowers could directly reach out to its customers with promotional offers about upcoming holidays, the use case highlighted.
The new offerings are set to come on the heels of Facebook’s partnership with companies like Uber and Lyft that have worked on in-app integration that allows users to call for a ride from Messenger. As part of its broader mobile commerce strategy, the Menlo Park-based company is also developing its virtual assistant, M, which would compete with Apple’s Siri and would be capable of performing a wide set of tasks, such as making travel arrangements and providing restaurant suggestions.
While these in-app integrations reflect on a new social commerce chapter for American consumers, it’s nothing new for Facebook Messenger’s Asian counterpart, WeChat, a Tencent company, which has seen enormous adoption among Chinese consumers who often use it to communicate with customer service departments of various brands and make purchases.
However, adoption of social commerce in the Western market has been hard to come by. American and European users, as WSJ pointed out, tend to limit use of social networking apps for communication purposes only. Nonetheless, Facebook’s plan to feature its chatbot technology for mobile commerce for a second year in a row at the F8 developer conference shows its determination to make mobile commerce work on its platform — a $4 billion revenue opportunity (along with WhatsApp), according to Evercore ISI Analyst Ken Sena.
Facebook’s new step toward enabling commerce on its platform comes at a time when Microsoft had to shut down its chatbot, Tay, after users taught the bot to respond with anti-Semitic messages.