- Facebook has filed a patent application for a messaging service using artificial intelligence that will allow users to place orders to merchants and complete payments within its Messenger chat app, according to CB Insights.
- For example, to search and pay for products, consumers would visit a merchant's page on Facebook where they would engage a messaging bot, and place their order within the chat, all without leaving Facebook.
- This patent would add to the social network's efforts to support payments in Messenger, something that is currently in closed developer beta, CB Insights reported. Facebook is seeking to streamline consumers' use of the digital processes on the pages of sellers, Digital Transactions noted.
Facebook is getting closer to integrating online payments for consumers as it creates a digital ecosystem that will keep users on its pages for longer. A previous move in 2017 brought person-to-person (P2P) payments to Messenger, and in 2016 the company enabled payments by chatbot, Digital Transactions said.
But these moves barely hinted at how prevalent the social platform intends to make Messenger for e-commerce. Its new patent application, made to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and published on June 28, indicates that Facebook intends to be a key player in online payments as part of its e-commerce plans. The patent shows development progress on a unified platform "for messenger-bot developers to hook into," Steffen Sorrell, a principal analyst at Juniper Research, told Digital Transactions.
Messenger is increasingly used for personalized customer service chatbot programs, such as the one at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Messenger's beta augmented reality experience also attracted the likes of Sephora and Nike, the latter of which sold out of shoes on the platform in less than an hour. Juniper Research reported that chatbots will bring $11 billion in cost savings for customer service for retail, banking and healthcare.
An example in the patent application illustrated the interaction between a customer and a chatbot for a coffee shop order. The bot tells how much a latte costs, the consumer confirms the order and the bot then ascertains payment intent and information, places the order and provides an order number and pick-up time. The example showed the chatbot using natural language processing (NLP) to talk with a consumer and analyze what they are saying.
"While we've seen a number of social commerce plays by Facebook, many of its previous attempts failed to gain traction," Natan Reddy, Intelligence Analyst at CB Insights, said in a comment emailed to Retail Dive. "That's because unlike in Asia, many consumers in the West tend to see online shopping and social media as two distinct activities. However, we may have begun to see some of this change."
Facebook Messenger's growth to over 1.2 billion users in the past year is a strong incentive for retailers to consider selling through the app. "Facebook's recent patent highlights the company's focus on creating a streamlined path to purchase for e-commerce customers on the platform, demonstrating that further developments may be on the horizon," Reddy said.