The Social Client, Acticall Sitel Group’s digital consulting agency, recently attended the exclusive presentations given by David Marcus, VP Facebook and Head of Messenger, and Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA, at Station F, the biggest startup campus in the world which opened this summer in Paris.
Marion Munier and Josselin Moreau, Senior Digital Consultant and Strategic Planner, respectively, at The Social Client give us a sneak preview of the new features on the Messenger 2.2 platform and see this as part of Facebook’s dual strategic objective: overcoming any remaining reluctance by brands to seize the business opportunities offered by this conversational channel and turning the platform into a one-stop shop where both users and brands can interface in a smooth intuitive way.
See our previous article:Creating conversational value with Facebook Messenger
“Ask Us Anything”
First, a few words about the conference format. With transparency as the watchword, Messenger opted for total visibility vis-à-vis both brands and users by presenting their latest features in a laid-back setting with no-holds barred questions.
Messenger lifts the lid on its users
Marion Munier explains that, “it was with this idea of opening the platform up to new partnerships that David Marcus committed to disclosing specific user-related data within three months. This data will give brands a much more detailed overview of the user base and provide them with a series of indicators of Messenger users’ habits and the relevance of its different features.”
1.3 billion users = 1.3 billion potential customers
Josselin Moreau goes on to add that, “brands should be able to leverage this information to deploy a more effective customer acquisition strategy that is more in phase with their target audience’s behaviour. Messenger is currently turning users into customers at an extraordinary rate - witness the bots deployed by Meetic and T-Mobile which actually register higher conversion rates than the two respective e-commerce websites.”
High-speed – but step by step – innovation
As Josselin Moreau points out, “this spirit of transparency that seeks to reassure brands is also tempered by extreme caution. Facebook fully embraces rapid change, but things have to be done properly. You shouldn’t aim to do everything at once: a step-by-step approach is needed. Therefore, Messenger recommends simple, high value-added uses resulting in immediate user satisfaction.”
First impressions count
As Marion Munier explains, “they use a “test and learn” approach and they’re not afraid to “test and fail”, so this is great for driving bold innovations. After testing in the R&D phase, they drop what doesn’t work and they only roll out experience that have been a proven success. They work on the basis that first impressions count. A megabot that handles everything but culminates in an overly complex or restrictive user experience could very quickly lose its appeal and devalue the platform.”
A two-track roadmap
Messenger’s aims are very clear. First, becoming a key Customer Relations channel that seeks to smooth the customer journey while multiplying brand opportunities. Providing greater visibility over users, attracting them and channelling them towards spaces in which they are able to interact with brands are all powerful vectors.
Second, remaining true to its original vocation as a conversational platform. As Josselin Moreau stresses, “Facebook’s core business is still all about connecting people. It’s really a way of mapping inter-personal relationships on a social, professional, commercial – and now financial – level.”
What’s new about 2.2: Fast, Simple and Successful
The new features are also part of this “Fast, Simple and Successful” mindset.
“Customer chat” adds a Messenger chat window – with or without a bot – for a given brand website to smooth exchanges between a conversation on Messenger and the website in question. Again Josselin Moreau emphasises that, “Messenger does not seek to replace absolutely everything but merely to be in the right place at the right time to provide an optimal Customer Experience while opening as many “brand gateways” as possible.
“M Suggestions” has finally landed in France. “M suggestions” has been leveraging the constantly evolving “M” artificial intelligence R&D project since 2015 to offer users relevant content based on the conversations they have been having on Messenger. As Josselin Moreau adds in passing with a smile, “98% of the “M” development team are French.”
See our previous article: Get ready to hang out with “M”, Messenger’s new personal assistant
Peer-to-peer payment (P2P) via Messenger, which was rolled out in the US in 2015, and in the UK in early November this year, is now available in France. This means that French users may transfer cash between accounts without incurring additional costs and Facebook actually picks up transfer service fees for accounts registered in France.
As Josselin Moreau notes, “this does not mean that Messenger is moving in on the bank’s turf. Indeed, the banks are actually delighted that their services are now being distributed via Messenger. Facebook has no intention of turning Messenger into a digital wallet and remains focused in its core relations-based activity. Messenger is partnering with banks to roll out a P2P payment system on its platform and liaising with these same banks to make it as secure as possible. Payments involving businesses (i.e., B2B, B2P, P2B) will be launched in France in summer 2018.
See our previous article: Messenger soon to launch its P2P payment in France?
So where do vocal assistants come into all of this?
Voice is the next big thing. All interfaces continue to be treated as points of friction. The most natural form of communication is the voice, but understanding it requires a certain effort in terms of concentration, tone and structural logic. Marion Munier believes that, “for the moment, it is only being considered for very specific types of environments – the house, car, etc. – as well as multi-tasking type situations where vocal and tactile interaction can easily complement each other, but much less in the public or professional arena.”
The same goes for Virtual Reality. “Although research is pushing full steam ahead, we don’t really expect any outstanding results for another five to ten years. Notwithstanding the dizzying possibilities of technology, Facebook is determined to avoid customer disappointment at all costs, and to stay firmly focused on user experience as a number one priority.”
As we await F8 2018 which will be held on 1 and 2 May 2018, check out our recap of F8 2017
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