Facebook has announced what we all knew it would: chatbots for Messenger.
Using the new bots for Messenger Platform, developers will be able to build tools so that customers can chat with businesses in the phone app, rather than needing to call a 1-800 number or email customer support.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used an example of 1-800-Flowers on stage at the F8 developer conference Tuesday, demonstrating how a user could order flowers straight from Messenger. They'll also be able to shop for items like shoes, as Zuck showed on stage, or order a burger.
Other partners include Bank of America, CNN, eBay, HP, Staples, StubHub, Thrillist and Zendesk, plus 25 more.
Bots will also provide updates on automated subscription for helpful stuff like the weather and traffic updates from partners.
Talk to me, bot
Bots for Messenger can host rich media, such as interactive bubbles (ooo!), images and special messages. Bots will pull up a pic and details about that shoe from Spring you're interested in, plus give you options to buy, see more links or ask a question about said shoe.
Users will have a number of avenues to chat with business bots, including sponsored ads.
Yes, businesses will be able to put ads into your News Feed that include call-to-actions to chat with a bot to learn about a new product, for example. It may turn out to be a useful way for customers to connect with a new business, but if it wanders into the realm of spam, Facebook will have a problem on its hands. I expect it will proceed with caution here, but it's something to be aware of.
Speaking of spam, users will have the option to mute or block messages from businesses if they choose. There will be a set of guidelines bizzes need to adhere to so they don't abuse bot usage.
Businesses will be able to utilize Messenger plug-ins on their websites or email newsletters. "Send to Messenger" will send customers receipts or shipping updates in a message, while "Message Us" will take customers to a chat via a deep link.
There's also something called customer matching, which basically means that any alerts customers are getting via SMS text from business will now come via Messenger chat if they agree to the option.
The Messenger Platform is still in beta, so users won't start seeing billions of bots bobbing up any time soon. Still, the bot revolution is certainly underway.
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