Facebook is making it easier for shoppers and retailers to communicate with each other by introducing e-commerce functionality to its Messenger service.
It’s the latest effort by the company to transform its mobile messaging service into a full-featured platform with the same pull with consumers and businesses as its flagship 1.4 billion-strong social network, according to Reuters.
For the first time, developers can create apps that function inside the Messenger service used by more than 600 million people.
In the next few days, Messenger will feature more than 40 different apps, allowing users to send each other sports clips, animations and other items.
Among the first apps will be those from ESPN and The Weather Channel.
“This is just the first step towards creating better sharing experiences across this whole family of apps,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told a developer conference in San Francisco.
Facebook has amassed a collection of mobile apps in recent years, including photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for US$19 billion in 2014.
Facebook hopes to turn its messaging service into one that operates independently of the company’s social media network as it faces intensifying competition from Twitter and Google, as well as fast-growing messaging apps such as Snapchat and WeChat.
Facebook partnered with online retailers Zulily and Everlane to let consumers contact them directly on Messenger to change online orders, such as the colour of a shirt, for example, and be notified when a purchase has shipped.
The service will be available in a few weeks.
David Marcus, head of messaging products, said the service is likely to expand to businesses besides retailers.
Purchases can be made by sending a message, provided the store has the consumer’s payment information, Marcus said.
But he declined to say whether Facebook might eventually process such retail purchases directly in Messenger.
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