Facebook has made yet another move towards the realm of payments.
A new patent application filed by Facebook, titled “Processing Payment Transactions Using Artificial Intelligence Messaging Services,” suggests that Facebook wants to allow users to make payments by interacting with a messaging bot directly within its Messenger platform. The messaging bot would dynamically respond to a user’s purchase request, and allow the user to complete a transaction from start to finish without leaving the app.
Facebook Messenger already supports payments in a limited way, allowing peer-to-peer transactions since 2017, and 80 million merchants already accept payments on Facebook via mobile storefronts. However, the chatbot in the patent is significantly more advanced and more integrated into Messenger than previous iterations of ecommerce payments on Facebook.
Using natural language processing (NLP), this new chatbot will actively interpret a user’s product request, allow them to select a payment type, and complete the transaction without leaving the app. The patent filing included an example of this sequence at work, showing a user ordering a coffee, paying with a VISA, and the chatbot giving the user an order number.
Maintaining the entire transaction within one app directly tackles a significant mobile ecommerce pain point. Being redirected to visit another standalone app or to another website introduces opportunities for a customer to cancel their transaction and increases the time it takes to complete a purchase. By using a chatbot to facilitate a transaction, payment can be made seamlessly and a user’s frustration can be kept to a minimum, increasing the likelihood of a completed sale.
As chatbot usage continues to gain traction, Facebook’s latest move in leveraging the technology to gain more of a foothold in the payments realm seems like a natural progression of this trend. WeChat, a dominant Chinese social network, was an early adopter of integrated mobile payment options and is now responsible for 40% of China’s $15 trillion worth of mobile payments in 2017.
By integrating payments, customer service, and discovery features directly into Messenger, Facebook is setting itself up to have a universal platform for social commerce.