Last week, Facebook announced that Messenger now has 1.2 billion monthly users, making it one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. With so many users on its platform, it’s no surprise that businesses have been clamoring to be on Messenger as well. At last count, 60 million businesses are on Facebook, and 80 percent of them have messaging enabled. The idea is that be it with a real-life human or a simple chatbot, the direct Messenger conversations between businesses and consumers will make users’ lives “more seamless and fun.” With Messenger Platform 2.0, Facebook hopes to realize this even further with a new Discovery tab, chat extensions, smart replies, an AI-driven delivery service and more.
So at F8 2017, the focus is more on helping people find these businesses in the first place. “The number one thing businesses want is to be discovered,” says Chudnovsky. “So we are connecting the White Pages, the people’s directory, with the Yellow Pages, which is the business directory.” That’s why one of Messenger 2.0’s new features is a Discover tab just for businesses. Tap the hexagon icon on the bottom right and you’ll see a list of Featured businesses along with popular bots, what’s nearby and a bunch of categories like Food & Drink, Entertainment and News. From there you can find out more information about any business, book an appointment or simply start a conversation. There’s also a search field if you want to talk to a specific store.
Example of Messenger discover: https://gfycat.com/InbornAlienatedAmericanblackvulture
If you’re a business who doesn’t necessarily want a full-on chatbot but still wants an easy way to communicate with customers, there’s a new AI-enabled feature for you too. It’s called Smart Replies, and it’s really just a way to enable automated answers to frequently asked questions. So if customers ask “When are you open?”, you don’t have to keep answering “From 8 to 5;” you can just program Smart Replies to do that for you. Of course if the customer asks for more than that, Messenger will prompt you to reply just like you usually would.
Last but not least, Facebook is also rolling out Messenger Codes to businesses and bots (It introduced them as a way to find your friends last year). The idea here is that if you see one of these parametric QR codes at a baseball game, for example, you can just scan it to add the related bot to Messenger.
With all of these features in Messenger, it’s easy to see why many people are calling the app bloated these days. But Facebook really wants Messenger to be your one-stop-shop of communicating with the world, be it for chatting with your friends or ordering a pair of shoes. Whether or not it succeeds, however, is another story.