While Facebook hasn't been shy about its wider ambitions to transform Messenger into an all-encompassing, all-purpose platform which people will be able to use for everything from direct communication to eCommerce, evolving the app to that next level has been a little slower than expected.
Or maybe not slower, but the hype around functions like Messenger Bots seemed to imply that the behavioral shift was imminent, that we were about to witness a wide-scale transformation in how we communicate, and how we use Messenger to facilitate our every day transactions. But it hasn't gone that way - there are now more than 34,000 active bots available within Messenger, but few see significant use, and despite more than a billion people using Messenger every month, the platform hasn't become an essential shopping companion and 'do everything' device.
At least, not yet.
But make no mistake, that wider ambition still exists - it may not be happening at pace, but it is happening, and it's important to take note of the small shifts and changes gradually taking shape.
The latest small step comes in the form of Group Payments, which are now being made available to all Messenger users in the U.S.
Group Payments in Messenger starting to roll out today in the US! pic.twitter.com/zBv2uew7mz- David Marcus (@davidmarcus) April 11, 2017
As you can see, by tapping on the new "+" icon at the bottom left of screen (which was introduced as part of the recent introduction of M suggestions), you can now select a new payments option, which enables you to either send or request payments to/from group members.
As highlighted in the video, this could be helpful when splitting the bill at a restaurant or contributing to a group gift purchase. The process is free (Facebook has repeatedly stated it's not interested in building a payments business with Messenger) and easy, and also enables group members to keep track of whose made payments, which could also add a little bit of helpful peer pressure.
Facebook introduced individual payments within Messenger back in 2015, but that system only accommodated person-to-person to transfer. The expansion of the functionality to groups provides a new set of options - while it's also interesting to consider the new function in line with the recent move towards enabling bot interactions within group chats.
While Facebook hasn't confirmed the new group bots functionality as yet (they're expected to do so at their upcoming F8 conference), the addition of payments and bots could help promote bot use by making it easier to use bots within a group setting.
For example, instead of group payments in retrospect, you could facilitate group payments direct to a bot to order food or movie tickets - whatever the focus of the group discussion may be. That, again, is taking things to the next level, Facebook hasn't moved to advance their in Messenger payment options to that degree as yet, but these smaller updates and integrations all move towards the larger goal. They may seem of interest in isolation, but in a wider sense, they have the potential to significantly change how we interact and conduct day-to-day transactions.
The Messenger evolution may still seem a way off, like we're not ready to interact via message to conduct a wider range of activities and behaviors just yet. But it may not be as distant a reality as you might think. If Messenger can start to make subtle shifts in what people can do - especially in group chats, where they can significantly increase exposure to such functions - there may soon be a time where engaging with businesses via bots makes alot more sense.
This would be a significant shift for marketers to take note of - it's worth paying attention to the changes and announcements to ensure you're aware of how the system is advancing.