Amidst a flood of buzz and hype there is one much-ballyhooed tech that is actually proving to be more than just, well, talk for retailers. Facebook Messenger has become a priority for brands looking to connect with customers.

Retailers say Facebook Messenger allows them a chance to speak one-on-one with customers, a capability that taps into both heightened personalization and a deeper emotional connection with the brand — with the added bonus of elusive proof points that Instagram or Pinterest don’t provide.

Here’s how retailers are speaking up in the space.

JackThreads
JackThreads CEO Mark Walker said sharing images on Instagram is akin to “casting a wide net,” whereas chatting with customers on Facebook Messenger makes the shopping experience about the individual user.

“What we’re after is intimacy,” said Walker. “People like to get information in different ways, but we love Facebook Messenger because it’s created a platform where we can have a back and forth. Customers don’t want to call us on the phone, and they don’t want us to text them. So, this lets us do more than talk at them.”

Consider the numbers: 900 million people use Messenger monthly, and 50 million businesses are now using the app to speak with customers, said to Frerk-Melte Feller, director of product management for Facebook Messenger, at a session at Shoptalk. The platform claims that 1 billion messages are being exchanged between businesses and people every month.

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A Facebook Messenger use case from Feller’s Shoptalk panel.

“It’s very hard to get people to download your individual mobile app and engage with it regularly in order to keep communication open there, but mobile is a critical channel,” said Feller. “Customers don’t like to call businesses.” Feller’s pitch to retailers: Open up a channel of communication where mobile customers already are, which is Facebook Messenger.

Shopify Plus
Five thousand Shopify merchants, like menswear brand Chubbies, are testing Facebook Messenger for both the discovery and search process and for sharing information around orders after they’re placed. Mark Bergen, director of Shopify Plus, said that those merchants are reporting a 70 percent response rate from consumers, a direct way to gauge one-on-one engagement, something that’s more difficult to track on other social platforms like Pinterest or Instagram.

“It’s already a natural medium for consumers,” said Bergen. “When you think about the potential of technology, what merchants want to get out of it is a way to appear more real, more social and more intimate with their consumers. Chat lets them deepen their relationship.”

Vestiaire Collective
“A like doesn’t equal a dollar,” said Sebastien Fabre, CEO of luxury resale marketplace Vestiaire Collective. “Chat allows for a more meaningful way to connect with our buyers and sellers and answer their questions and empower new business.”

Without going into specifics, Fabre said that the company is exploring several different social platforms to test chatbots and live chat. For sellers on Vestiaire, Fabre sees them using chat as a way to learn about the process and make smarter selling decisions. Buyers can use chat to find a specific item they’re looking for, or learn how to style something.

Spring
Spring, the mobile marketplace for luxury and fashion brands, ties its Facebook Messenger chatbot into its native mobile app. On the home screen, it offers up the option to begin a shopping discovery choose-your-own-adventure with the chatbot. If a customer accepts, the conversation begins in the Messenger app, where the user shares what they’re looking for, a price range and other details to help find personalized items.

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Interacting with Spring on Facebook Messenger.

Experiences with AI-powered chatbots are still in early development phases, but Facebook Messenger says they’ll improve the more that people use them. For retailers less inclined to build an AI experience with a bot, Messenger is a way to communicate with customers around logistics: subscription renewals, shipping information, return policies.

“That’s the easiest touchpoint for merchants,” said Bergen. “It just makes sense as a way to eliminate confusion, be more transparent and field questions.”