In a rare and welcomed move, Facebook has released some important details on how it intends to improve (or at least change) its chat Messenger in the coming year. Heads up about Facebook Messenger: It’s becoming an increasingly important way for businesses of all kinds to reach customers and even make sales. Facebook knows this, and it’s planning on capitalizing on this new opportunity. That’s good news for brands, too! Let’s take a look at the changes that appear likely.

New Design

It’s no surprise Facebook has announced design changes: Facebook tends to be a little clunky and behind the times even at its best, and Messenger has become loaded up with some esoteric tools that aren’t exactly easy to use or welcoming to newcomers. The company tells us to expect design changes in 2018, most likely with a focus on streamlining the app, making it easier to use, and improve discussion management.

More M Suggestions

M Suggestions are an automated “here’s some info!” option you can choose in Messenger by pressing the M logo. Facebook plans to add “more suggestions” which indicates M Suggestions are getting a boost or are being retooled to become a more native part of the conversation app. That’s very interesting for businesses because those Suggestions can offer many different types of information based on the conversation that people are having. Future changes are likely to add more content and allow Suggestions to offer actions as well, perhaps even “buy this” options.

Better Connectivity

Facebook also made a more nebulous comment about “investing in real-time communications” and making sure you can chat with people “no matter where you are.” Those statements don’t say much on their own, but when taken with the current tech climate, it sure looks like Facebook is planning on expanding Messenger connectivity. This means that the app will probably be easier to use – especially with video calling – in more areas, such as rural zones or locations that have recently seen a natural disaster. For companies that tend to do a lot of work on site, this may be particularly good news!

More Visual Focus

As the world continues to focus on videos, images, and GIFs, Messenger will continue to embrace those features. That probably means better image/GIF tools and an easier way to include videos or photos naturally during a conversation. Some of this stuff is probably only interesting to B2C companies, but keep in mind that there are also benefits to including quick video tutorials or explanatory pics in a B2B Messenger chat. That brings us to another important point…

Customer Service

Facebook studies have shown that around 56% percent of people would rather message a business than try calling customer service: It’s not surprising Messenger is already becoming a customer service tool, and Facebook is eager to capitalize on that. One change we’re already seeing is the ability to automatically open a chat window with a service rep when people click on a link, so expect this to be an important new ad function in the coming year. Facebook business pages can also encourage visitors to open a chat window and ask questions as needed. We can expect to see even more ways to link interested customers to chat in the future.

Chatbots

Chatbots have grown so quickly, we suspect everyone was taken a little by surprise, including Facebook. Granted, Facebook has already come a long way in allowing and encouraging chatbots in Messenger, and they can do some very exciting things like help answer questions and sell items. It’s pretty easy to set up a basic chatbot via Facebook right now, but creating a more elaborate AI is much more challenging. It looks like Facebook wants to make it easier to create chatbots with specific functions like customer service, “concierges” to help find items or complete tasks, news bots to talk about new services, and so on. We are also likely to see more visuals and rich text options in chatbots to create a better experience for all involved.

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