Wise words from Mr Zuckerberg

“I don’t know anyone who likes calling a business. And no one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service that they interact with. We think you should be able to message a business, in the same way you would message a friend.” Mark Zuckerberg at F8 in 2016.

What to expect…

Messenger Bots were originally introduced by Facebook in 2016 and have continued to be one of the top talking points for the 2017 forecasts.
What will an increase in Messenger Bots mean for digital, and are messenger bots here to stay or is it just another 5 minute fad?

So what can messenger bots mean for your brand?
– Accessibility for your customers
– Improved Customer service
– Ease of Purchase
– Convenience of service
– Close connection between brand and consumer

Facebook’s Example

Facebook have provided some examples of how Messenger Bots can work, one example of this is through fashion retailer, Spring.

As shown above, the user is able to specify the product, style and price range , along with being able to see images of recommended products. This process is very efficient as it cuts out all the time spent actively trying to sift through millions of product listings and bad search results that aren’t relevant.

Are humans still relevant within a ‘bot’ world?

As well as having a practical bot response, there is the opportunity to identify when/where the human intervention is relevant or indeed needed. For example users can click on ‘Ask a Question’ option, which generates a ‘Messenger query’. This provides the user with the opportunity to specify their question, which prompts an actual person from the customer service team at Spring to answer therefore driving interaction

Again, having this personalised service helps the user to feel like they are totally recognised by the brand as a valued customer, and not just being spoken to by a digital device that has no knowledge of the individual. Through every interaction, however, the Messenger Bot learns the customers likes, dislikes and specific behaviours. In time, as the customer continues to use the brand more and more, the need for an actual person will become minimal, as the Bot learns about the individual and, based on this, can generate more of a tailored and personal response and the holy grail of personalised engagement.

Where can Bots be found?

All of the above bots can be found using the search bar in Facebook Messenger under, people you can message. Chats with bots will exist alongside conversation threads with friends in Messenger, making the experience more likened to a social conversation rather than a business or buying tool.
As Facebook has released these new advancements for messenger Bots, the question has been raised, is the beginning of Messenger bots the end for Apps?

I think not.
Although, as demonstrated above, Messenger Bots have their pros, time efficiency, better customer experience and improved brand relationships, the point still remains, apps and Messenger Bots, are two different things.

Bots V Apps

Apps could be compared to a shopping center, where you can move around freely from one area to another, actively searching for all the things you need/want. There are no restrictions or limited options, and users can explore without feeling limited. However, when it comes to bots, it’s more like a single shop, with a specific purpose for visiting, you don’t have leverage to explore and just look where ever you want to.

As previously discussed, there are definitely some great advances for Messenger Bots, revealing a lot of potential for brands to engage consumers and provide them with a truly tailored customer experience. But, as pointed out, bots can also be very restrictive, and without users repeatedly using the software, can often lead to an actual person being called upon to answer particular questions or queries, (which defeats the point of a Messenger Bot). The luxury of having an app, is that the user can roam freely, without being restricted to certain products or services.

Conclusion

Clearly there are Pros and Cons for both Apps and Messengers bots, would I go as far as saying that one is better than the other, probably not…just yet.
As for what the future holds for Messenger Bots, this idea that a personalised, instant, always on, direct-to customer approach, is of course something to consider, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the ‘must have’ for brands in 2017. If it doesn’t fit for your brand, then don’t force it.

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