ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Commerce Daily in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out our topic page for the latest mobile commerce news.

What Burger King’s new chatbot means for QSR chains’ order-ahead options

Burger King is piloting an order-ahead tool within Facebook’s Messenger application, leading the plethora of QSR marketers debating whether to invest in chatbots while lending credence to Facebook’s ability to serve as a viable mobile ordering option.

Per a demo video on Digital Buzz, Burger King is testing a chatbot on Messenger that enables users to place meal orders, select a pick-up location and pay for their purchases. Although a slew of marketers in various sectors are already leveraging chatbots, the QSR industry may find chatbots especially useful, particularly if a brand is uncertain about investing in a standalone mobile ordering application or platform.

“Chatbots have garnered a significant portion of the MarTech conversation in the last few months, and for good reason; they help brands reach individuals on their terms and reduce the friction of engagement,” said Michael Becker, managing partner at mCordis. “These are two core principles of connected marketing.

“Burger King has demonstrated leadership in this space, having previously worked with Kik’s chatbot to engage people in compelling and fun conversations with the brand and now with Facebook Messenger,” he said. “We are still in early days with chatbots, but the clock is ticking.

“Gartner has predicted that by 2020, nearly 85 percent of interactions an individual has with a business will not include a human on the side of the business. Chatbots and related artificial intelligence-driven individual engagement and conversation platforms (check out SWRVE, for example) are essential capabilities that every marketer must learn to integrate into their efforts if they are going to connect with, engage and influence the individuals they serve, at scale.”

Making the best of Messenger
Per the video, Burger King’s chatbot greets consumers as soon as they open up the service. After users respond, it asks if they would like to make an order, giving them the option of pressing a “yes” or “no” button.

If consumers respond affirmatively, the chatbot will display a carousel version of the fast-food chain’s menu. Individuals can press the “select” button located underneath each food item to indicate their choice, which will prompt the chatbot to ask “Make it a meal?”

Consumers can follow the bot’s inquiries to fill out the rest of their order, or select the location at which they will retrieve the meal. Location options also appear in a carousel-like format.

Digital Buzz’s demo video does not display the payment process. However, since Facebook does not yet offer in-application payments, the chatbot has likely integrated with a third-party platform, or brings users to an outside site on which they can complete their purchase.

Burger King is not the only marketer leveraging Facebook Messenger as a two-way communication platform and sales-driving tool.

Staples, Fandango, 1800Flowers and CNN were among the first brands to reach out directly to Facebook Messenger’s large audience as part of a chatbot push announced several weeks ago at an annual meeting Facebook holds for its developers (see story).

Chatbots vs. apps
Burger King and its fellow QSR brands may find the most use in Messenger-based chatbots, however. If a particular chain is wary about rolling out a mobile ordering app and running the risk of garnering few app downloads, it may find that investing in a chatbot is a safer strategy.

Chatbots can provide a plethora of order-ahead options, and are readily available to Facebook users anywhere, at any time.

Facebook already offers ordering capabilities for other services, such as Uber, meaning that the social network is just a few steps away from becoming a one-stop commerce shop for many consumers’ daily needs.

Additionally, the fact that Facebook maintains hundreds of millions of users worldwide indicates that QSR chains can more easily reach previously-untapped demographics or new consumers who may be curious about ordering via a chatbot for the first time.

“Implemented properly into the brand’s strategy, the chatbot may put the fun back into the functionality of the QSR restaurant’s application,” Mr. Becker said. “A brand can establish a strategic bridge between its rented audience on social media platforms, like Kik and Facebook Messenger, and its owned audience within the brand’s own app.

“A chatbot solution, by itself, is not a complete strategy, but a necessary part of the strategy.”