What does the future of Facebook Messenger look like?
By Jed Hallam, Mindshare
Facebook Messenger is the messaging platform of Facebook - historically this has been a part of the Facebook platform, but last year they decoupled it from the main platform and it became a stand alone application. It now has more than 700million users, and Facebook is planning to open this up to businesses, and provide a suite of additional tools for them to build services and functions on the platform.
In a nutshell, Facebook is turning Messenger into a direct sales and CRM platform that allows brands to contact, transact, and communication with customers through Facebook’s messaging platform. It will be opening up access to businesses in Europe in Q1 2016.
Details and Implications
Facebook’s plan is to expand the services within the existing Messenger platform, and begin to introduce services that are much more akin to those found in WeChat. The services that they’ll be introducing (and in some markets have already introduced) include:
- Ecommerce - this has been trialed with Everline (a clothing brand), KLM (the airline), and they’re about to go public with a major US retailer which has been trailing it for a number of months in the US.
- M - this is the new Artificial Intelligence proposition from Facebook - basically you add ‘M’ as a friend, and you can send it questions - these questions are then answered by an AI, and if answers look incorrect or vague, a human will intervene - eventually it looks like they want to position this as a replacement for customer service teams (train M to understand all the possible questions and outcomes, and it’ll remove a massive overhead for you etc).
- New paid media channel - as part of the relaunch of Messenger, they’ll also be introducing new formats that will appear in Messenger itself - they’re also connecting the whole ecosystem up too, so you’ll be able to join up the Facebook offsite pixel with Messenger, for example.
- There were a few other more consumer-focused features too, such as video calling, allowing third party app developers to build on it, and peer-to-peer payments.
The best example of how this will work is Everline. Everline has used Messenger to allow people to order directly by message - they send in details of what they want, Everline will confirm that the product is available, the customer then purchases through Messenger, receives their receipt as a message, along with delivery details, and confirmation of delivery. All done in-stream, without a single email sent.
The implications for this are numerous, but the first few to spring to mind are:
- Customer service - M eventually replaces customer service teams (as mentioned, we believe that it will learn to become an automated customer service tool).
- Ecommerce - they’re encouraging businesses to build ecommerce functionality on the Messenger platform, and all transactional costs will not be passed on - this, combined with the ease of building on existing Facebook frameworks, makes it look like a very cheap and accessible option for all sizes of business.
- ID - Facebook are encouraging clients to use their Facebook ID as the pervasive ‘people tag’ that talks between existing business systems and Facebook technology.
- API - Facebook want brands to build APIs that connect directly into Messenger (and by proxy, Facebook), so that Facebook Messenger becomes a one-stop shop for all shopping.
- It gives Facebook a very plausible play for direct response advertising money - and makes them a very credible threat to both Amazon (purchase data), and Google (intent data).
- The inbox becomes another newsfeed…
The big push from Facebook is that by keeping this all in a ‘thread’ of messages (and within Facebook), it is a tidier, more relevant, and more contextual experience to both parties (as opposed to email). The retailer can look back over the customer purchase history and tailor communications, and likewise the customer can look through their purchase history and easily reorder things that they’ve purchased before.