Friday, April 08, 2016

Invasion From The Skies: The First Example of Ads on Facebook Messenger

A few weeks ago, our classmate Katie Clark posted about how there was "No Sacred Place" left, because ads were coming to Facebook Messenger. Having opened up its Facebook Messenger Platform for developers to integrate their services into the mega-popular chat app, Facebook is gearing up for a future where it can mediate the interaction between users and businesses for a "fluid and centralized experience".

Well, today we have our first proper look at a real business using the app for advertising, and it is an invasion from the skies - KLM Royal Dutch Airlines:

KLM flyers will be able to automatically receive itineraries, flight updates, check-in notifications, boarding passes, rebook flights, and communicate with customer service all from Facebook Messenger.

I guess I see the use case for customer service, particularly for time-sensitive interactions such as flights. But this is not blazing a trail - after all, "live chat / help" modules on business websites have been ubiquitous for nearly two decades now. It is less easy to see how Facebook will achieve its goal of turning the app into a one-stop shop for e-commerce interactions / notifications such as tickets, invoices and confirmations - their stated objective earlier this year. I think people prefer to have a document "of record" in their email for this kind of stuff.

Maybe Facebook realizes this model isn't for all kinds of business marketing. I found this telling:

For now, Facebook said that it is being selective with businesses who can use Messenger to communicate with customers.
Airlines, however, could be a major use case for Messenger, according to Facebook’s vice president for messaging products, David Marcus. Marcus told USA Today that approximately 80% of passengers on planes traveling within the United States have the Messenger app installed on their smartphones.

Only time will tell whether the ephemeral interaction of a Facebook Messenger chat can supplant more tangible interactions like a phone call with a real voice at the other end, or even the more tangible record of an email in your inbox.

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