After Thursday’s announcement that Dutch airline KLM would start sending out boarding passes directly through Facebook Messenger, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at what brands are planning to do to maximise Facebook Messenger’s potential. KLM have also announced that they plan to sell tickets through the chat app too following on from when Uber made it possible to order one of its cars through Messenger. Incredibly this once despised clunky app has morphed into a Swiss army knife of features that could one day rival the very operating systems (iOS and Android) it sits on.
Back in January, Facebook Messenger opened up new tools for developers to be able to build bots, so brands could seemingly interact with users in the form of a character. Disney, for example, rolled out a “Miss Piggy” Messenger bot that you could chat with.
Eyal Pfeifel, chief technology officer at Imperson, which built the bot believed that the bot feature would be used for entertainment purposes above anything else. Disney writers helped craft a script to make the conversation as authentic as possible where “Miss Piggy” mostly talked about her show “Up Late with Miss Piggy.”
Interestingly, only a few months later – brands are already looking beyond the entertainment bot and considering customer service instead.
Software marketing firm Snaps has been busy building chatbots for approximately 20 of its clients, due to commence launching on Messenger in the second quarter.
CEO, Christian Brucculeri explains how the bots will become useful and promotional at the same time. “If you want to know how to get coffee stains out of a shirt, you could just go chat to a detergent company on Messenger and type ‘coffee,’”, adding that you could also start chatting to a spices brand and simply type “chicken” to get recipe ideas.
Some could argue that maybe consumers won’t appreciate brands approaching them in an area reserved for friends and family. “It doesn’t disrupt chat but enhances it,” Brucculeri insists.
However Facebook Messenger isn’t alone in its ambition to dominate the messenger market. Just last week, Microsoft announced that within Skype, bots will help you order a takeaway, book a hotel room, or simply chat smarter with friends, thanks to help from Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana. Users will simply be able to request their order via the app and because Cortana knows your name, address and payment details etc – it can simply go ahead and place the order for you.
In terms of smart chatting, Cortana can then go a step further — knowing that you’ve got an upcoming trip to London, for example, it can suggest you message a contact who lives in London about your upcoming visit. It can even automatically construct a message with relevant information (along the lines of “Hey, I’ll be in London May 10-12. Would you like to meet up?”).
Although I believe that the Microsoft ambitions are a lot more socially engineered (not as intrusive as brands contacting users on Facebook Messenger) they are still a little behind FB having only just announced the ability for developers to create bots for Skype.
Either way – it is an exciting time to be alive! With more and more adblockers popping up and disrupting traditional digital advertising it will be interesting to see how brands make use of these new capabilities.