Will chatbots drive a ‘conversational commerce’ trend?
The social media landscape is always changing, and retailers have continually tried to find ways to leverage the most popular platforms to turn users into shoppers. Now some big names are trying out a method of leveraging Facebook Messenger to facilitate purchases, foregoing both websites and retailer apps.
Subway and Mastercard have partnered to roll out an ordering chatbot for Facebook Messenger, Mashable reported. Fresh Direct and Cheesecake Factory are introducing similar chatbots. A demo on YouTube shows a user messaging the Subway chatbot, which responds by inviting the customer to find his or her location on a map and select the nearest Subway restaurant. Then it displays a menu, inviting the user to select a sandwich. The chatbot carries on a back-and-forth conversation with the user, determining the sandwich size, type of bread and other options. When the order is completed, a customer can pay using Mastercard’s Masterpass.
The implementation of these chatbots is part of an emerging trend known as “conversational commerce,” as noted in a Washington Post article.
There seems to be wisdom in retailers trying to sell consumers on the apps they already use, rather than pushing adoption of individual retailer apps. Studies consistently show that users are interested in interacting with only a few smartphone apps. This has led to a low rate of standalone retail app adoption. A 2016 comScore report identified Facebook Messenger as the most popular app in terms of time spent.
But despite Facebook Messenger’s relative popularity, bringing on retailers might also represent a move to make the app more valuable to those that aren’t sold on it. Facebook has been pushing the Messenger app hard to users, rendering it impossible to use the messaging service from a smartphone without using the Facebook Messenger app, closing down various workarounds.
This has not gone without complaints as users have noted that the messaging app drains device batteries. Though in January, according to Mashable, Facebook claimed it fixed one major battery-draining glitch.
Facebook has also begun letting users sign up for Messenger using just a phone number rather than requiring a Facebook account, as reported in The Guardian.
- Now you can order and pay for Subway in Facebook Messenger – Mashable
- Masterpass-Enabled SUBWAY Bot – YouTube
- Retailers look past apps to the next frontier of digital shopping: Chatbots – The Washington Post
- Why aren’t more retail apps being downloaded? – RetailWire
- Why is Facebook trying to force you to use its Messenger app? – The Guardian
- Facebook just fixed a major battery-draining bug – Mashable
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will customers take to interacting with chatbots to meet shopping needs more readily than visiting retailer websites or interacting with apps? Will the chatbot model prove to be an effective and enduring way for companies to leverage social media?