Facebook adds new features to Messenger as competition heats up for business messaging

By Business Insider

Facebook unveiled three updates to Messenger on Thursday that help to offer more compelling AI-powered experiences within the chat app, according to Fortune.

Messenger’s virtual assistant M can now suggest quick automated responses, GIFs, and movie tickets, all within a conversation in Messenger. These suggestions add convenience and value to the user experience while broadening the chat platform’s functionalities.

Messenger’s updates are part of a wider strategy to make Messenger a core communication hub between users and businesses. As Messenger adds features and functionality that make the app better equipped at handling consumer queries, it could pull users away from traditional modes of business-to-consumer (B2C) interaction, including email and voice calls. The company already caters to 65 million active businesses on its platform globally.

Facebook is doubling down its efforts to make the platform more appealing to businesses by adding features that drive B2C interactions. Here’s why:

  • Competition in the B2C chat space is heating up. iMessage, WhatsApp, and Skype are all racing to be the go-to interface for B2C interaction. Apple this year announced iOS Business Chat, which fosters B2C interactions via iMessage. And in September, WhatsApp unveiled plans to introduce verified accounts to help businesses engage with consumers.
  • Native messaging services are becoming more like chat apps. For example, RCS, Android’s next-gen messaging service, is aimed at enhancing current SMS capabilities with many of the same features that instant messaging and messaging apps provide to a smartphone’s native messaging app, similar to the iOS 10 updates to iMessage.
  • Businesses are finally realizing the value in using chat apps for B2C interactions. Tommy Hilfiger found that 3.5 times more was spent though Messenger than any other digital channel during Fashion Week in NYC. Consumers were able to make fashion purchases directly from the runway via a Messenger bot, and over 60,000 messages were exchanged on the platform.

Messenger faces an uphill battle against native messaging services, such as RCS and iMessage, which remain at the heart of the smartphone experience. The potential strength of these services, particularly RCS, is their ubiquity, OpenMarket Senior Product Manager at Andy Shirey told BI Intelligence. By offering an appealing messaging solution that’s baked into the device, these new services could inhibit Facebook’s growth going forward.

Laurie Baever, research associate for BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has written a report on the end of apps that assesses the evolving app landscape, examines how the existing app model is threatened by the decline of broad app usage, profiles the promising new tech in the space across Apple, Facebook, and Google, and explores barriers standing in the way of user adoption.