Facebook Messenger Opens Native Payments to Bot Developers

September 14, 2016 - 3 minutes read

There’s been a lot of chatter about the “bot revolution” the past few months, but the spread of bot app usage among mainstream mobile app users has been slow at best.

Part of the reason behind that, at least on go-to messaging platform Messenger, is the limitation on payments. Specifically, in order to make a payment for goods and services ordered via chat, users have to go to an external page to handle payment info. This introduces major friction because, I mean, what’s the point of shopping or ordering Ubers through a chat app when you have to leave the chat interface to make it “official?”

As of this week, Facebook is taking steps to solve this problem by introducing native payments to their bot ecosystem. This is big news for San Francisco app developers jumping on the bot train, and opens up some intriguing startup opportunities for new companies.

The announcement came live from TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016, where Messenger lead David Marcus discussed the rapid growth in bot development they’ve seen and how native payments will encourage the adoption of messaging for commerce applications.

Critics might worry that Messenger’s payments feature will fall more in line with SnapChat’s “SnapCash” feature, used more like Venmo than Square and not widely known to casual app users. However, Messenger’s platform will support a variety of payment processors including Paypal, Visa, American Express, and Stripe, suggesting that the app developers behind it see this as a move towards mainstream ecommerce.

Marcus also discussed measure Facebook is taking to encourage and nurture bot app developers. For example, Facebook ads for bot services can be expected to deliver a lot of bang for buck directly in audience newsfeeds. Integrations with website interfaces are also underway, allowing users to pull complex interaction flows directly into the chat window.

As with any young technology, bot app developers can expect to see big wins and equally big losses as the market decides which aspects of chat commerce work and which are simply developer pipe dreams. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see that Facebook is taking strong measures to support new startups exploring the possibilities bots can offer to mobile app users.

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