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Facebook messenger revamp brings advantages for mobile retail

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Facebook is redesigning its Messenger app with a view to increased simplicity and greater functionality – and it delivers some interesting new opportunities for retailers.

As part of a redesign that sees the standalone Messenger app lose its games and videos tabs, Facebook is bringing in augmented reality (AR) for shopping and adding in language translation, starting with English-Spanish, with more promised in the coming months.

Already working with ASUS, Kia, Nike, and Sephora, the AR feature will allow retailers to show and demo products in Messenger with full AR to let consumers get a much better idea of products before they buy them.

“With this launch, businesses large and small can leverage the Camera Effects Platform to easily integrate AR into their Messenger experience, bringing the virtual and physical worlds one step closer together,” explains David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook. “So, when a person interacts with your business in Messenger, you can prompt them to open the camera, which will be pre-populated with filters and AR effects that are specific to your brand. From there, people can share the image or video to their story or in a group or one-to conversation or they can simply save it to their camera roll.”

Marcus continues: “Blending AR effects and messaging solves a real problem for people shopping online. There are so many situations where we need to visualize a product before we feel comfortable buying it. We often seek input from our friends and family before making a purchase. This feature — launching in closed beta — leverages the nature of messaging to help people get valuable, instant feedback about purchases, customizations, and more, without ever needing to set foot in a store. This feature is the latest addition for the Facebook AR Studio, which powers expressive and immersive experiences across our family of apps.”

In addition, buyers connecting with sellers through Facebook’s marketplace will be able to do translations using Facebook’s intelligent translation bot.

“Now when people connected through Marketplace receive a message in a language that is different from their default language in Messenger, M [Facebook’s translation bot] will ask them if they want to translate the message,” says Marcus. “This will help drive commerce between buyers and sellers despite language barriers. At launch, translations from English to Spanish (and vice-versa) will be available in Marketplace conversations taking place in the US.”

“This move by Facebook is a recognition of how important conversations now are for retailers, and why they are at the heart of the online customer experience journey now,” comments Fran Langham, Marketing Manager, UK, at conversational marketing platform iAdvize. “Forrester has already termed this evolution of retail as ‘The End of Advertising, The Beginning of Relationships’.”

Langham continues: “This is great news for retailers. By being able to talk to your customers more, you can increase average order value, raise customer satisfaction and also boost sales, by up to 60%. Also, by integrating augmented reality to online shopping within Messenger, this opens up a host of opportunities for retailers to capitalise on an emerging technology that will gain more importance in the coming years.”

Currently, 1.3 billion people use Messenger every month, exchanging 8 billion messages between people and businesses.

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