Since its launching in 2004, Facebook has been slowly becoming our one-stop shop for everything from connecting with old classmates and discovering new restaurants to browsing how-to videos and leaving feedback for local businesses. Now, the social media giant wants to replace the apps on your smart device.
Currently, your phone or tablet may have an app for ordering take-out at a restaurant, another app for making an online purchase, another for staying on top of the news and still another for finding a hotel room for the night. Facebook’s new chatbots intend to change all of that. Thanks to the new Messenger platform, businesses are now able to deliver automated customer support, interactive experiences, e-commerce guidance and content through chatbots.
The concept of chatbots is certainly not a new one. Chatbots, or chat robots, are interactive software powered by artificial intelligence and are designed to simulate conversation. While they’ve been used in Asia to schedule appointments and shop online for some time, they are less common in North America and Europe. While convincing consumers to change how they interact with businesses may take some time, Facebook is banking on the fact that users will quickly fall in love with the efficiency and convenience of this new feature.
According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “We think you should message a business just the way you would message a friend.”
To demonstrate the benefits of the new feature, he ordered flowers from 1-800-Flowers by using the company’s chatbot. He also provided a demo of CNN offering the latest news through its chatbot. Currently, users are able to find out the location of a friend, transfer money, arrange for transportation, book a flight and more. As more companies jump on board, the opportunities available through Messenger will increase. To encourage companies to take advantage of this new platform, Facebook allows developers to either build their own chatbots or to work with Facebook’s bot-building partners.
Although Facebook has yet to monetize this feature, the benefits that chatbots provide are obvious; Facebook will have greater insight into the habits and lifestyles of their users. However, businesses also have a lot to gain from the new platform. Chatbots make it easier than ever to provide immediate customer service, potentially trimming down on the expense of a call center. The chat messenger will retain each user’s identity and context from the last conversation, providing an intuitive experience.
While Facebook’s chatbots can be a great thing for small businesses, they’re not going to replace the skills and training necessary to build an engaged community. At Ensuite Media, our social media experts have the experience you need to make Facebook’s new tools work for you.