International funds transfer company TransferWise has announced that users will now be able to send money through Facebook Messenger, in the latest move towards significant expansion of payments - and shopping potential - within the app.
As per Reuters:
"TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts."
In Messenger payments have been available in the US for some time, but TransferWise says its service will be the first to enable international transfers within the app.
While in isolation this may seem a relatively small update, it's significant in terms of where Facebook is headed with Messenger, and its wider ambitions for Messenger commerce, particularly through the use of Bots.
As we've reported previously, Facebook's broader ambition is to emulate their Asian messaging counterparts on this front - in China, for example, 570 million people log in to WeChat every day, through which they can book taxis, pay utility bills, do their banking and buy products.
WeChat says that more than 31% of its users now initiate purchases via the app, while the average user spends more than 70 minutes a day on the platform - significantly more than the average time spent on Facebook.
WeChat also reports that revenues for performance-based advertising on the platform have grown 80% year-on-year to $556 million in 2016. Messenger, it's worth noting, does not yet contribute any meaningful revenue to Facebook's bottom line.
The development of bots is one of the key ways that Facebook hopes to change perceptions of what Messenger is and evolve it into a WeChat-like, multi-purpose platform, which would include shopping and payment-based services. There are currently more than 34,000 active bots on Messenger, but as yet they've not generated significant awareness or take-up. Adding the ability to connect with businesses and complete transactions, without ever leaving the app, could be a key step in making this happen.
Of course, this isn't definitively what the TransferWise bot is designed for - the TransferWise bot is more designed for international funds transfer to capitalize on foreign exchange rates, without the additional bank fees and platform costs. But it's clear that there will be extended applications for the service, and that it'll serve as something of a test case for Messenger payments.
As TransferWise's head of global partnerships Scott Miller tells CNBC:
"The next natural category of companies to take advantage is likely to be businesses that currently waste money going through banks. You'll likely see other companies get very excited about this"
That capacity could signal a significant shift for business transactions. TransferWise also notes that it's looking to expand its offering to 50 countries - and 600 currency exchange pairings - in the near future.
It's not the key shift that will change the way we look at Messenger and bots, but it's another step in the right direction. There may come a time soon where Messenger becomes your key platform - for everything.