Facebook Messenger Adds E-Commerce Capabilities

Prior to Facebook’s F8 event this week, rumors swirled that the social giant was going to turn Messenger into a platform for developers. The day one keynote at the conference confirmed this speculation and revealed that Facebook will not only open up Messenger to developers, but also to online retailers, allowing marketers to use the platform to further their e-commerce efforts.

Facebook chief executive (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg introduced the Messenger Platform in his keynote speech this afternoon, which will allow developers to build apps that directly integrate into Messenger. Following Zuckerberg’s address, David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products, unveiled another interesting Messenger feature specifically designed for commerce and shopping.

When consumers make a purchase online, they usually get an email to confirm their order and another email to notify them that their order has shipped. Then, they may get more emails if their order goes wrong. But now, 600 million Messenger users will be able to view their shopping information and negotiate with merchants just within the app.

“[Those separate email threads are] pretty inconvenient on desktop and barely usable on mobile,” said Marcus. “[So] we are reinventing the personal shopping experience online and on mobile.”

How does this feature work? For example, if a consumer purchases a T-shirt on Everlane.com on desktop, he can choose the option to “look at details in Messenger.” Then the online retailer will send a “thank you” note, as well as a receipt, to Messenger on a mobile device. When the order is delivered, Everlane will send tracking information to Messenger in real time, which includes a map, shipping date, and estimated arrival date. If users want to change or return orders, they can communicate with Everlane customer service directly through the app.

Nathaniel Perez, global head of social at SapientNitro, believes that this feature is a logical step forward for Facebook.

“In a nutshell, the biggest move here is that Facebook has been taking an integrated approach to messaging,” Perez says. “Brand marketers are trying to leverage messaging to engage with consumers, because that’s what Millennials love. Now brands will be able to connect with consumers in real time through messaging, which [they] didn’t have before at scale. I think having a direct line with consumers is probably attractive to any brand.”

Karim Hijazi, CEO of social commerce company Tagspire, agrees that integrating customer service functionality into Messenger is a smart move.

“Alibaba’s Messenger and WeChat in China have seen great success with this kind of feature. It’s interesting to see the trend of social commerce in China finally making its way here in the U.S.,” Hijazi says. “I think Facebook has realized that consumers want to transact on their mobile devices.”

Brands will be able to leverage this messaging feature to improve consumer relationships and further convert users into brand loyalists, according to Hijazi.

Facebook hasn’t disclosed the number of brands working with Facebook Messenger on the platform.

This move follows another from Facebook just a week ago, when the company unveiled a mobile payment feature for its Messenger app.

Image via Shutterstock.

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