Facebook may be killing its virtual assistant, but not all brands have given up on the platform’s bots.
This week’s announcement that Facebook is dissolving its M platform — a virtual personal assistant for messenger, designed to complete tasks like booking appointments and ordering products — in many ways mirrors the difficulties afflicting the retailers that are testing bots. Ultimately the social platform found M was too complex to manage, plus it struggled to automate certain actions, a challenge retailers are also experiencing as a result of a lack of backend resources. Despite this, many brands continue to trial the technology in an attempt to not just tout their tech capabilities, but also drive consumers to their e-commerce sites and increase sales.
However, much like the demise of M, many retailers, in the rush to implement the technology, are failing to establish the appropriate resources needed to maintain them, said Maya Mikhailov, CMO and co-founder of mobile commerce platform GPShopper. It doesn’t help that messenger bots are also increasingly facing competition from other automated services, like voice-activated style programs from Amazon Alexa and Google Home. (Perry Ellis, for example, became one of the first retailers to test voice commerce in September, adding yet another channel for commerce.)
“It’s not as easy as just ‘insert chatbot here.’ Chatbots were initially positioned to retailers and brands as a magic bullet, where all you needed was a bot,” she said. “As retailers think about what they’re going to do with bots, they need to remember it needs to be usable and scalable. Bots aren’t a bandaid solution for customer service solutions.”