One of the highlights of Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco this week was the introduction of a new Messenger platform that lets both private and business users deploy the app in a variety of ways. What does it mean for you? In one sense, the new-look Messenger platform allows numerous third-party apps to integrate with it, meaning users can send GIFs, track packages, manage orders and more.
On another level, Facebook is making it apparent that Messenger is no longer just a part of Facebook, but rather an independent platform that enables users to conduct a variety of instant communications -- with friends and with businesses.
In staking out that turf, Messenger will compete with other services including Snapchat, Line and Facebook’s own WhatsApp. That will mean using Messenger to share sports highlight clips and movie trailers, make voice calls, make payments to friends and retailers and even deal with airlines and package services, with more such commercial connections to come.
To help Messenger’s ascension along, Facebook has hired former PayPal President David Marcus. The native Parisian oversaw the great success of the eBay division as it spun off into a public company. He will report to both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Vice President of Growth, Engagement and Mobile Adoption Javier Olivan.
Messenger is already used by more than 600 million people each month. All those users will soon have access to third-party apps that will let them share a vastly greater amount of content directly on Messenger, rather than the old way of posting links.
The app will also come with e-shopping capabilities. When users make a purchase while logged into Facebook on your phone or computer, they will be asked if they want to track the purchase using Facebook Messenger. If the user accepts, everything related to the purchase will be handled through a single Facebook Messenger bubble instead of by e-mail. Users can even contact the company with support requests to change an order or request a return. Messenger will integrate with Zendesk, a popular customer support platform.
Facebook’s integration of business into Messenger could easily lead the company into the lucrative world of online retail. Facebook is employing a strategy that has been used before by mobile messaging apps like Line and WeChat. Messenger’s greater ambition is to improve on its parent company’s earlier e-commerce efforts, such as the Buy button launched last year.
With all those hundreds of millions of Messenger users, Facebook will have impressive numbers as it comes out with its recently announced peer-to-peer payments service. When it does so, it will be the first step toward allowing users to message a business their interest in an item and having the order immediately processed and confirmed with an emoji. Right now Facebook’s payment service is still person-to-person in the United States.