- Facebook announced that retailers and other brands that operate chatbots on its Messenger platform can now buy targeted newsfeed ads that link directly to their bots, allowing them to immediately initiate conversations with users clicking through.
- Facebook was already conducting a limited test of chat-linked ads, but David Marcus, who heads the social media giant's Messenger efforts, said this week at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal that the offering is now available to all brands, according to Recode.
- Also at the Web Summit, apparel retailer Burberry announced its own Messenger chatbot designed for holiday shopping that mixes brand storytelling with an automated gift recommendation engine, as well as the ability for customers to chat with a human directly through the chatbot if they desire.
We will look back on 2016 as a year of many major events, and some we'll see in a positive light, others in a negative light. One which may come to view as major shift in how retailers and brands interface with their customers is Facebook's growing army of brand chatbots.
To be clear, the chatbot evolution that has been playing out this year started with Facebook's efforts to turn Messenger into a full-blown shopping platform, a direction that became apparent well over a year ago; earlier this year, Facebook followed up by allowing retailers and brands to create chatbots on Messenger, and then supplying them with additional tools to enhance the value of their chatbots. At times, it has seemed questionable how consumers would be driven to the chatbots, and how those interactions could be turned into purchases.
That's where the brands behind the chatbots really embraced the concept and helped it take off. We're not just talking about Burberry, which is now continuing to evolve its chatbot capabilities, but also Sephora, Tommy Hilfiger, and many others.
Now Facebook is taking another step to give the chatbots on Messenger a boost — for a price, of course. The direct links between the ads and an open chat session with a brand's chatbot should make it easier for those brands to drive more traffic to their bots, giving then a greater chance to make sales, either directly or indirectly — the latter if the chat session helps a customer find an item to buy online or in-store.
The potential to make direct sales through Messenger chatbots may remain elusive for most for now, but let's see where we are this time next year.