Facebook has announced new features for businesses using its Messenger platform, including an integrated augmented reality capability which will be used by Sephora, Nike and Asus, according to a Facebook blog post.
David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products, explained in the post that Facebook developed the AR function, which uses brand-specific AR filters and effects, so that businesses using Messenger to communicate with customers can allow their customers to "visualize" products and applications before they buy them.
The AR feature for Messenger was announced at Facebook's F8 2018 event and is now being used in a closed beta program, Marcus said. Facebook also announced another new feature for businesses using Messenger, M Translations, which allows Facebook Marketplace buyers and sellers to translate messages from one another into their preferred language, the post stated.
These new features arrive about two years after Facebook used its F8 event to hype the opening of Messenger to businesses for the development of chatbots, a move which has driven many retailers and brands to embrace the platform for marketing and customer service. Marcus stated that there are now more than 300,000 active bots on Messenger, and that more than 8 billion messages per month are exchanged between people and businesses. The latter represents a growth of about four times over message volume last year.
Facebook also shared details on how the early adopters of the new AR feature are using it. Sephora, for example, is applying the feature to its chatbot-based virtual make-up try-on function. Sephora is an old hand at AR now, having worked with Modiface to roll out some initial AR capabilities back in 2016.
Meanwhile, Nike is using the technology to allow users to get exclusive glimpses at new shoes "through a curated and visual red carpet experience," and Asus, for its part, will use the feature to create visual unboxing experiences for users who want to see new smartphones and their product specs. Car maker Kia, among others, will also be using the technology.
The growing number of mobile AR apps suggests retailers are embracing the technology, and that they think consumers will take well to adding a visual experience to their shopping communications with retailers. There has been a lot of talk about how to evolve chatbots with greater intelligence, but presentation also matters, and that's where AR fits in.