Facebook Chatbots Open for Business

  • Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
  • Author: Tim Maytom
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Facebook has been gradually expanding the capabilities of the chatbots that companies can operate within its Messenger app, and the latest update is a considerable leap forward, with bots now able to take payments and conduct transactions, among other improvements.

The latest update to the Messenger Platform introduces a number of new tools for developers and businesses making use of this new channel. Payments through Messenger are still only in beta, and the test is limited to US users, but it brings a long-awaited function to the app.

Messages with payments will integrate transactions directly into the chat, with payments using bank-level encryption to protect users financial information. Currently, businesses will have to apply to incorporate payments into their chatbots, but Facebook expects to roll the capability out more broadly by the end of the year.

In addition to payments, the update has introduced a number of other features to the Messenger Platform. In another beta test, enhanced mobile websites can now be seamlessly integrated into Messenger, with developers able to customise the height of their website within Messenger to create richer interactions in threads without losing the context of the conversation.

Bots will get Welcome Screens providing information on the service such as response times and capabilities, bots can be more easily shared with friends, and News Feed ads in Facebook will be able to directly link to Messenger, launching a chat with a bot.

Ever since David Marcus, head of eBays PayPal unit, joined Facebook to serve as vice president of messaging products, industry experts have been awaiting the moment that the social network would introduce an mCommerce element to the app. Combining it with the development of chatbots enables brands to run responsive, engaging retail services that address customer needs without having to assign staff to run chat services and answer questions. The integration of mCommerce into Messenger could represent a seismic shift in Western messaging apps, indicating they are finally catching up with the kind of versatility offered by Asian services like WeChat and Line.