The arrival of the digital age has transformed the retail banking industry and altered the relationship between banks and their customers. New banking channels like websites and mobile applications have introduced an entirely new way to reach customers and do business.
In particular, conversational interfaces, also referred to as chatbots, leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and the surging popularity of messaging apps to enable unprecedented banking engagement.
One tech giant in particular is betting on the emerging trend. Facebook announced in April Messenger Platform 2.0, which enables developers and firms to deploy chatbots on its messaging platform.
More specifically, the platform is a “new suite of tools that gives [software developers] the ability the build richer experience, get discovered, and extend the conversational, visual and social capabilities of bots.”
Financial services companies, including MasterCard, MoneyGram and Western Union, are poised to take advantage of Messenger’s enhancements to connect with their customers at any time. All three have announced their entry onto the platform.
MasterCard’s digital wallet Masterpass is now a checkout option on chatbots for FreshDirect, Subway and the Cheesecake Factory.
Consumers interact with a chatbot that features merchant branding. MasterCard comes into play when it is time to make a payment.
“We went out to the merchant and we wanted to show them that this was the next generation of engagement for the consumer, so we’re driving innovation to the merchant,” Kiki Del Valle, senior vice president of digital payments and labs at MasterCard, told Mobile Payments Today in a recent interview.
For Subway, the app searches users’ location to find the closest Subway for pick-up. Customers can choose from different options for sandwiches, salads and sides, including cookies or chips, as well as drinks. The food can be paid for with Facebook’s payment system or Masterpass.
The new feature can be used at 26,500 Subway restaurants across the US.
“This is where the consumers are taking us — the ability to give the consumer the control by bringing them to all these new devices and the convenience of paying, but allowing the consumers to really get personalization from the device [through artificial intelligence],” Del Valle said.
As of Western Union, its Messenger chatbot enables customers to make funds transfers, and in this instance, from within the US to more than 200 countries worldwide. Users can also check exchange rates at any time, as well as ask simple questions such as the status of a transfer or the location of the closest agent.
“We want to be where our customers want to be, where they are comfortable in transferring money,” Khalid Fellahi, senior vice president and general manager of Western Union digital, told Mobile Payments Today.
“For us, the guiding principal is really sort of ubiquity. We have new places where people hang out and we want to make sure we’re there.”
For Western Union and MoneyGram, a presence on Messenger gives them another option for consumers in addition to transfers made online, through a mobile app or in person. They follow the lead of TransferWise which was the first international money transfer company to enter the Messenger platform a couple months ago.
Facebook, which introduced person-to-person payments within Messenger in early 2015, expanded the feature in April to support groups as well.
In addition, Facebook has recently revamped its AI assistant for Messenger, M. The upgrade, initially only for US users, lets M pop into open conversations on Messenger when it “recognizes intend” and suggest relevant content and capabilities.
At launch, the feature has a handful of capabilities, including payments. This means that is someone types “you owe me $10,” M will appear suggesting that the participants use Messenger’s payments function.
M will also enter a conversation about a trip with the offer of arranging an Uber or Lyft, as well as offer to share users’ locations.
Last year, Facebook began supporting PayPal as one of the payment options within Messenger. The integration means that customers who shop via the growing number of chatbots from online merchants are now able to transact on Messenger using PayPal’s payment service.
In January this year, Facebook registered as an electronic money provider in Spain as the firm seeks to expand its payments functionalities to Europe.
Featured image credit: Pixabay