Facebook Messenger rolls out AR and other enhancements at its F8 developer conference
While several companies tout their success using the platform, Kia and Octane AI announce new Messenger integrations.
Facebook announced new tools for its Messenger platform, including the ability to use augmented reality (AR), at its F8 developer conference Tuesday.
Businesses send and receive 8 billion messages through Messenger every month. The ability for businesses to create bots in the Messenger platform was introduced in 2016.
In an announcement and update on his Facebook blog, David Marcus, vice president of Messenger, touted the tool’s current success: “To date, there are over 300,000 active bots on Messenger … that’s 4x the amount of messages exchanged since just last year.” The post said that 1.3 billion people use the service each month.
Get ready for AR
Facebook will soon let businesses create branded augmented reality (AR) experiences for their customers to access through their cameras in Messenger. The company announced this feature in closed beta and said it will let “people get valuable, instant feedback about purchases, customizations, and more, without ever needing to set foot in a store. This feature is the latest addition for our AR studio, which powers expressive and immersive experiences across our family of apps.”
Even though it’s in closed beta, brands such as Kia, Nike and Sephora will offer AR effects for Messenger right away.
The company also announced the launch of M Translations, which will offer translations to buyers and sellers connected through the Marketplace, saying, “Now when people connected through Marketplace receive a message in a language that is different from their default language in Messenger, M will ask them if they want to translate the message … At launch, translations from English to Spanish (and vice-versa) will be available in Marketplace conversations taking place in the United States.”
I talked to a few businesses that are using Messenger to see how they are doing and ask them if they will use the new features.
Conversational companies have found a home
Christian Brucculeri, chief executive officer at conversational marketing firm Snaps, told me that his company has been seeing “exciting results for consumer brands in the retail and hospitality verticals.”
“We see the Messenger opportunity as a canvas for combining marketing and customer service use cases that have been traditionally managed through channels like email, SMS and phone call centers,” Brucculeri told me, adding that he’s seen increased automation and revenue lift using Messenger.
Joshua March, CEO of social customer service platform Conversocial, agreed.
“Messaging is … easier to automate, with built-in bot platforms, and [it] enables brands to combine humans and automation in the same conversation — so bots can help speed up resolution time, without ever frustrating the customer (as there’s always a human agent ready to help),” March said. “We’ve rolled out automation for over 30 of our clients that helps find out what the issue is and collect necessary information before taking the customer on to a human agent, enabling us to automate 15-20 percent of inbound messages, and delivering a much faster resolution to consumers.”
Octane AI sets out to banish abandoned carts
Artificial intelligence company Octane AI also used F8 to announce its “conversational” commerce platform for Facebook Messenger. The platform includes a Shopify integration, bot product and gift finders, and an integration with Messenger that allows businesses to directly message users who have abandoned their carts.
The company says that more than 1 million people are connected to businesses and stores via its platform and that its clients are reporting higher open rates and conversions and that they recovered twice as much abandoned cart revenue.
Ben Parr, co-founder and chief marketing officer, told me that his company offers something unique in the shopping space.
“Some companies work on just cart abandonment and others just on AI,” Parr told me. “There’s nobody who is bringing the two together. We’ve combined the two to not just recover abandoned carts and market through Messenger, but to eventually provide smarter product recommendations and personalization. And unlike other products, we’re a complete marketing suite for conversational commerce through the entire customer journey.”
Kia goes all out with AR
CarLabs unveiled what it’s calling a first-of-its-kind AR Facebook Messenger experience at F8, featuring work it did with carmaker Kia. The company says Kia was chosen due to its previous work with CarLabs in developing its intelligent digital assistant “Kian,” which launched in late 2017.
From a release announcing the work:
Users of Kian in Messenger can place a 3D rendering of Kia vehicles into their location. The first of Kia’s vehicles to be featured is the 2018 Stinger. Stinger enthusiasts can place the Stinger, in the color of their choice, in their garage or any environment. Consumers can also share augmented reality images in group or one-on-one conversations in Messenger or to their individual story or saved to their phone.
Brendan Flynn, vice president for CarLabs, told me that Messenger was the perfect choice for them.
“Messenger is a powerful tool for conversational marketing because of the ability to contextually target and re-engage in-market car shoppers,” Flynn said. “We have seen a 24 percent re-engagement rate when Kia’s digital assistant Kian sends users a contextually relevant follow-up message. Simply by putting Kian on Facebook Messenger, the brand saw a 50x increase in the number of messages exchanged on that channel.