Editors' pick: Originally published April 19.
With Facebook's (FB) - Get Report chatbot venture announcement last week, and players such as Microsoft and Kik building their own chatbot services, we are seeing for the first time real traction for conversational commerce.
Messaging apps are quickly becoming the new "it" platform. This is reminiscent of the trend in the mid-nineties, when the browser replaced the desktop OS. Just as websites replaced client applications then, messaging bots are going to replace mobile apps. Bots are becoming the new apps: a more conversational way for you to chat with any brand or business.
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Here's the skinny, in case you missed it. Facebooklast Tuesday unveiled a major update to its Messenger app that lets developers build chatbots for their brands with Messenger's chatbot API. Now, with 900 million people around the world using Facebook Messenger, will the wildly popular social network manage to make bots a part of our world?
Many analysts and experts in the industry think so.
- By connecting to bots in Facebook Messenger, consumers will now be able to message with brands -- letting them make a restaurant reservation, order flowers, review an e-commerce order, or ask for the latest news or weather forecast. Currently, the experience requires consumers to exit Messenger before paying for purchases.
- In line with the announcement, Facebook is allowing brands to link their websites to Messenger by dropping a "send to messenger" link on their sites. Businesses can also reach consumers over Messenger using just their phone number, provided that consumer has consented to that contact.
- Businesses and developers can also create a conversational presence on Facebook Messenger by building external apps that interface with Messenger's send & receive API.
"Creating a great experience for customers on mobile is absolutely vital to the success of brands today," said Donna Peeples, chief customer officer at Pypestream, a New York-based company that allows brands to securely message with customers, transfer files and make in-message payments. "We are in the age of conversational commerce, where customers want to be able to message brands and businesses in their lives as they would their friends."
Facebook isn't the first player in the space, though.
Earlier this month, messaging-provider Kik launched its own bot shop, featuring brands like H&M, Vine and Sephora.
Microsoft has also recently launched its Bot platform -- a set of tools that will let anyone create a bot that they (and their customers) can chat with. Eventually, Microsoft hopes, these bots will replace web and app interfaces.
The author holds no positions in the public companies mentioned in this article.