Facebook announced that bots built atop Facebook Messenger can now support native in-app payments. The company also said 300 million people use audio and video calling features on Messenger every month.
Facebook FB +0.44% Messenger has evolved rapidly since the social media giant’s vice president of messaging David Marcus started running the service about two years ago, reaching 1 billion users in July, up from 700 million users a year earlier.
On Monday, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company unveiled several Messenger updates that show the social network is serious about the future of chat bots and voice interfaces. On the stage of TechCrunch’s annual Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Marcus announced that chat bots built atop Facebook Messenger can now support native in-app payments. Marcus also said that 300 million people [≈ population of United States, nation] use audio and video calling features on Messenger every month. While Messenger is not actively working on adding voice interfaces to replace actions like typing and selecting buttons, Marcus said Messenger plans to add voice capabilities down the line.
For its new bot payments feature, Facebook FB +0.44% is working with a number of partners, such as PayPal , Stripe, Visa V +0.69%, MasterCard, American Express AXP +0.74% and Braintree, and the tool allows users to complete payments in-app without going to an external site. Messenger users can now use credit card information they’ve stored in Messenger to make payments via bots. About 34,000 developers have made 30,000 bots on Messenger, up from 10,000 developers in May and 11,000 bots in July, the company said.
“Now Messenger bots will allow native payments,” Marcus said on Monday, offering the example of using a single Messenger thread to complete all of the steps of booking an airline flight, from browsing flights, accessing customer support, buying the ticket and getting an itinerary.
“Bringing all of these types of mobile experiencs together is what will ultimately make platform successful over time,” Marcus added.
Since Messenger bots first debuted at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference inApril, users’ reception to the bots generally has been tepid. Marcus acknowledged that Facebook has more to do to help developers build successful bots and improve the underlying functionality. Marcus said the initial launch of bots on Messenger was a move to ”put a stake in the ground,” not to roll out a fully-baked feature. So far, news bots have generally been the best-performing apps by engagement and retention, the company said.
“What we want to do here is build an ecosystem and bring a lot of developers to the platform,” Marcus said, noting that Facebook has been investing in new tools and guidance for bot developers over the past several months. “It’s not easy and it takes time. It got overhyped very quickly.”
Messenger isn’t currently focused on monetization and doesn’t generate meaningful revenue for Facebook. However, Marcus noted that businesses are using advertisements on Facebook news feed to take users to their Messenger bots and drive better returns on their ad spend, in some cases, than they can through their own mobile apps and sites. Developers can now incorporate interfactes from their sites into bots, which can make it easier for users, for example, to scroll through products or flights without leaving their Messenger thread.
Marcus said the future of Messenger looks sunny. Engagement by daily sends has ”grown tremendously” on the service over the last several years.
“Messaging is all about the ability to reach the people you want to reach,” Marcus said. “It’s a no-brainer to use Messenger because the experience is so much better than traditional SMS clients.”