Facebook Messenger bots can now serve as standalone storefronts.
On Monday, Facebook Messenger made it easier for companies to sell products through their Messenger bots by adding a buy button, the ability to people to buy products from a bot without needing to leave Messenger and a way for brands to direct people from their Facebook ads to their Messenger bots.
Previously, to buy something like a bouquet through 1-800-Flowers’ Messenger bot, you had to click a button that took you out of Messenger to a web page where you had to type in your credit card and shipping information. It was annoying, especially if you had already attached that information to your Facebook Messenger profile in order to send and receive money from friends.
Now, people can have Messenger automatically plug in the credit card and address information attached to their Messenger profiles when buying something from a Messenger bot without any need to leave Facebook’s app. Companies have to use either Stripe or PayPal to process these payments, according to Facebook Messenger’s developer documentation.
Facebook isn’t only making it easier for people to buy from Messenger bots. It’s also giving bots new tools to increase their sales through Messenger.
For starters, brands can now add links to their Facebook ads that direct people to their Messenger bots. Advertisers can use this option to promote a Messenger-only sale and show the discount code in the Facebook ad, as well as on the welcome screen, when someone clicks to open a conversation thread with the bot.
Brands can also improve how their products are displayed in Messenger. They can still show image thumbnails using Messenger’s swipeable gallery-style card format. Or they can load a custom web page that takes up the entirety of the device’s screen or only a fraction to make people feel like they’re still within Messenger (which technically they would be).
Brands can personalize these in-app web pages, which Facebook calls “webviews,” since Facebook will now send them to a person’s user ID when they open these pages. That’s how someone can buy products from a Messenger bot without leaving the Messenger app, but it would also enables brands to remember the products or product categories someone had previously checked out through their interactions with a Messenger bot and suggest new items.
There are a few more bells and whistles Messenger added for bots on Monday. Bots can now present people with button-only, keyboard-hiding prompts to make it easier for someone to send a bot their location, pick a color for an item they’re looking at or choose a particular product from a row of images. And people can share individual messages, or “message bubbles,” with their friends on Messenger. So a bot could show you a shirt your best friend might like, and you can send it to them through Messenger, which will be displayed to them the same way it was to you, including whether it contained a buy button so that person could purchase almost immediately.