Facebook Opens up Platform for Bot Developers

Facebook announced today that it will be opening up a developer platform for chatbot builders named FbStart, in the spirit of hallmark Facebook simplicity. This can be expected to add many bouncing baby bots to the 34,000 already available for use on the Messenger platform, and aid in the improvement of existing solutions.

The company will also be allowing developers to track their bots on its free analytics platform, which currently tracks the performance of ads and apps.

Bank of America’s new bot Erica is just one of many new services incumbent banks and others in fintech are developing to utilize the new technology for the use of consumer finance. When it comes to fintech, chatbots can provide faster answers, financial insight, and engage customers on a deeper level—provided, of course, that those customers actually find the bot helpful.

At a chatbot bootcamp held last week in New York, customer engagement solutions company Personetics recommended focusing on creating a sleek, interoperable design that can shift from channel to channel, and uses tools customers are familiar with, such as buttons, especially when tailoring the bot to Messenger.

According to company CEO and co-founder David Sosna, who spoke at the event alongside other company executives, the goal is to build a bot that will complete tasks autonomously—make a payment, push insight, or manage other aspects of a customer’s finances.

There are quite a few finance bots on Messenger’s platform, though the list of supported bots dedicated solely to payments is quite short—Stripe, Cleo, Neomy, Truebill, Coupons Bot, and Monty Frugal comprise the list.

This may be a little surprising, when it comes to the amount of mobile services consumers can choose from to make payments—Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Chase Pay, Walmart Pay, IBM Pay, Cake Pay (the payment app for the Cheesecake Factory), and on, and on, and on.

“There’s a clear need and understanding to be ubiquitous in the digital world,” said Michael Moeser, director of payments for Javelin Strategy and Research, about the ways companies are approaching alternative payment methods like chatbots and mobile payments. “[Everyone] is trying to figure out, what’s that Rolls Royce? What’s the ultimate [consumer payment] experience?”

Like mobile payments, whether or not that means chatbots depends on the level of user engagement and, well, the actual helpfulness of the bot.

The new opening of the Facebook developer platform should give bot developers a much broader field of play, which means more opportunity for consumers.

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