Last week at F8, Facebook’s massive annual developer conference, the big news was bots—specifically on Messenger, Facebook’s messaging app. Messenger has a increasing user base of 900 million users per month – very enticing for companies eager to get their wares in front of customers. Facebook is turning Messenger into an open platform where any company can now build a chatbot that users can talk with. If you’re an airline, you can build a chatbot to book flights; if you’re OpenTable you can build a chatbot to allow reservations, you can even call an Uber – one-touch marketing.
People don’t use a ton of apps, and they don’t download many either. The reason is simple: There’s an enormous amount time spent with learning about a new app, downloading it, signing up for it, and then remembering you even have it. And this is why the rise of the chatbot makes sense.
The promise of chatbots is that from within Facebook Messenger you can do anything you’d like with the speed and ease that would be impossible if you were toggling between numerous apps. Moreover, because you’re already in Messenger, there’s no need to sign up all over again if you’re trying out a new service. Messenger already knows who you are.
Your Facebook profile becomes the foundation of your online identity.
Once you start a conversational thread, your transaction history is right there, threaded into a cohesive stream of conversation that you and the bot can access.
With 15 million businesses using pages and 1.6 billion people using Facebook, actionable conversations can now come together in threads that are contextual and almost sacred. For the lifetime of the interactions everything stays in one place, unlike email.”
Chatbots in Kik and other messaging apps work much like this already, with guided options that push your chat along. But “Facebook believes that the future will yield deeper and deeper integrations between the chatbots and the sensors and data on your phone.”
Soon, we’ll see how well consumers engage with these features & developments, which really have been around since the days of IRC, if you think about it. Only users will decide if they really are faster and more fluid than apps; the proof will be in the numbers. With users reportedly sharing less on Facebook each year, it makes sense for them to create a business-friendly platform, with less and less need for Facebook proper.