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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Facebook Messenger bots emerge in commerce

A year after launching the Messenger Platform, Facebook unveiled version 2.0 at the mid-April F8 Facebook Developer Conference held in San Jose, Calif. One notable difference at this year's conference was heightened activity within the financial community to integrate Messenger customer engagement and commerce initiatives. Over 1.2 billion people globally use the Messenger app each month, according to Facebook.

When the instant messaging and chat platform initially rolled out, developers gained access to Facebook's Wit.ai Bot Engine, which converts natural language into structured data for automating conversations using artificial intelligence (AI). The bot engine apparently becomes more intelligent with each interaction. For businesses, the service provides automated response tools to more efficiently interact with customers.

With version 2.0, multiple customers can now chat simultaneously with a business or revisit businesses through the built-in Discover tab. Businesses can respond to frequently asked questions using the new Smart Replies for Pages. It also produces multiple parametric QR codes to add more choices while shopping. Businesses are able to create separate personal shopping and customer service bots useful in commerce applications.

Card brand, bank support

After opening up its experimental Masterpass Chatbot API on the Mastercard Developers platform earlier this year, Mastercard then collaborated with Turkish mobile retailer Getir to develop a Masterpass-enabled bot that allows shoppers to purchase items within Messenger and receive 10-minute guaranteed delivery.

At the F8 conference, Mastercard revealed Masterpass-enabled bot service collaborations with Fresh Direct LLC, Subway IP Inc. and The Cheesecake Factory Co. LLC. Mastercard noted that the bots leverage AI technologies to enable consumers to interact with merchant brands, build orders and securely checkout via Masterpass and supported wallets without exiting the Messenger platform.

"Our bot for Messenger, deployed in more than 26,500 U.S. Subway restaurants, is the largest deployment of a Messenger bot in the restaurant industry," said Carman Wenkoff, Chief Information and Digital Officer at Subway. "We're proud to offer our guests an innovative new way to order and pay outside the restaurants."

American Express Co. released an updated version of its Amex bot for Facebook Messenger during the conference that will allow U.S. Consumer and OPEN Card Members to receive on-demand answers to account and card queries.

Wells Fargo & Co. just pilot launched a bot for Messenger that deploys AI-driven customer chat experiences. "Our goal is to deliver information 'in the moment' to help customers make better informed financial decisions," said Steve Ellis, Head of Wells Fargo's Innovation Group. "AI technology allows us to take an experience that would have required our customers to navigate through several pages on our website, and turn it into a simple conversation in a chat environment."

Western Union, MoneyGram on board

During the F8 conference, both Western Union Co. and MoneyGram unveiled new services that incorporate Messenger. Western Union developed a money transfer bot for Messenger that makes it possible for users in the United States to send money to over 200 countries and territories across 130 currencies.

According to Western Union, the entire experience occurs within the Western Union cross-border money transfer platform, which is embedded inside Messenger. "Our Messenger community in the U.S. can now connect with the rest of the world via Western Union's services – either digitally or to a physical location – when sending money," said David Marcus, Vice President of Messenger.

With the newly launched MoneyGram Sendbot service, customers can now transfer money to any of MoneyGram's 350,000 agent locations globally by texting the desired recipient on Facebook Messenger. Built into MoneyGram's service is the Messenger's intuitive thinking software, a money transfer tracking tool and a dedicated agency location finder, MoneyGram noted.

In summarizing Messenger's expanded capabilities, Marcus said. "We think of Messenger as being like the new social living room for the world, where people can hang out, share, chat, play games or buy things, while still being able to reach nearly everyone, wherever they are. We now think we are combining two tools of the past — the telephone directory (the way we used to find people) with the Yellow Pages (the way we used to find businesses)." end of article

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