Facebook is hoping that the new chatbots it is introducing into its Messenger app will revolutionise ecommerce.
The bots will allow users to interact with businesses directly via their Facebook page as though they were Instant Messaging a live person. Whilst these sort of automated live chats are commonplace on company websites, integrating them with Facebook Messenger makes them far easier to find and use, particularly on a smartphone or tablet.
Facebook demonstrated the chatbot capabilities at its F8 conference in San Francisco on April 12 using the US florist 1-800-FLOWERS as an example. Users were able to choose a bouquet, write an accompanying note and specify a date, time and address for delivery, all using Facebook Messenger. At present, this service is only available in the US.
Other early adopters include CNN and the weather app, Poncho, which can be set to deliver updates at a time of the user’s choosing, and the fashion retailer, Spring. An intriguing possibility for the entertainment industry is offered by the interactive murder mystery, Detective Kees: Probable Cause, which allows Facebook users to follow clues in order to help the titular detective solve the crime.
The technology is still in its early stages and is currently only useful for applications where social interaction is limited to a few pre-set options. But as artificial intelligence improves, it could have profound implications for the future of customer service in the ecommerce sector.
Facebook has over 1.5 billion users worldwide, and that number is set to grow. Its massive global reach means that the new chatbot Messenger platform could be the biggest revolution in ecommerce since Apple created its App Store in 2008. Online businesses would be well advised to start planning for the future now.