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Facebook Updates Messenger to Support 1:1 Conversations & Commerce

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This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team took to the stage at F8 – the Facebook Developer Conference – to unveil a slew of new product updates. Among them was one of interest for brands with e-commerce platforms: Facebook’s Messenger app. The update will now allow Facebook Messenger to support personal, real-time conversations with customers, including limited in-app purchases.

This update to Facebook Messenger could mark a revolutionary change in the way consumers engage with brands while shopping – making the whole experience much more frictionless. Today, even brands that nail commerce like Nordstrom or Zappos can be frustrating to purchase from, due to the disconnected process. In many cases it looks like this: Confirmation email, shipping confirmation email, tracking codes to be entered at a shipping company’s site, signing up for shipping updates, delivery confirmation e-mails – and don’t even think about making a change to your order!

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With its new update to Messenger, Facebook hopes to drastically improve user experience. In the example provided during the conference, a user, “David,” orders a shirt from the Everlane website. Upon checkout, he’s given the chance to check a box that reads “Get real-time shipping updates on your phone. Send to Messenger?” Once clicked, he’s notified of all order details – confirmation, live shipping info, customer assistance – in his Messenger app, and all in one canonical string. Days later, David is so pleased, that he wants the same shirt in black. “Can I also buy this in black?” he asks within the Messenger app in the same conversation thread of his order details – “Of course! Your total will be $43.35. Do you want me to place the order?” It should be noted that at the moment, it appears reorders are fulfilled via payment information entered on the brand’s site.

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If this new capability takes off, it could be a win across the board – here’s how:

 CONSUMERS

  • It’s a single, unified platform for all purchase related info.
  • It’s an easy one-to-one communication method on a platform they already frequent.

BRANDS

  • The most turnkey solution to-date for integrating a useful live-chat with consumers. At the moment, the app is powered by customer service software Zendesk, with other similar services invited to join.
  • Early brand adopters will win mindspace and recognition as technologically progressive and consumer-centric brands.

FACEBOOK

  • Facebook will now be able to glean mountains of data and close the loop by correlating social following and engagement to purchase.
  • Last week’s announcement that Facebook Messenger now supports payments appears much more strategically timed after the F8 updates. While the payment system currently operates exclusively from person-to-person, it’s not hard to imagine a day when people will be able to pay brands for products or services from right within the app.

MARKETER IMPLICATIONS
Not unlike ApplePay, if consumer demand for this product ramps up, companies will have to follow suit – whether they’d like to or not. Brands will have to consider how their site’s CRM looks and works, how they manage customer service and supply chain data, and who their real-time brand ambassadors are. A quick poll of 360i retail clients revealed these implications aren’t too worrisome – retailers expect the changes to be more incremental in how they operationalize existing service personnel. It’ll be important for marketers to keep their eyes peeled for updates on how Facebook will manage in-Messenger payments down the road.

You can learn more about the update on Facebook’s Messenger site here.