Facebook tells B2C businesses: I feel your mobile pain

Messenger chat-bots and React Native could give many businesses a path to first-degree customer relationships

Facebook tells B2C businesses: I feel your mobile pain

Facebook’s Messenger chat-bots and an update to the React Native cross-platform mobile development framework—both announced last week week—could relieve the pain felt by businesses trying to shift customer interaction from the web to mobile.

It might seem there is an app for everything, but not every business has one. Building a token app that lives a lonely existence on the app store doesn’t help keep customers buying as they shift from the web to mobile. And meaningful mobile relationships and revenue-generating campaigns still elude most businesses because of the high cost of having Android and iOS development teams and the challenges of recruiting developers.

Facebook’s announcements give the many businesses formerly shut out of mobile a path to building mobile apps that encourage mobile customer interactions. Here’s a look how:

B2C business on the Messenger platform inside Facebook’s walled garden could be better for some businesses than the open internet.

The chat-bot development tools in Facebook’s Messenger platform empower B2C companies to build chat-bots within Facebook Messenger that automate customer service functions, answer product questions, accept orders and provide order updates using rich app-like interactions (see the F8 demo). 

Advertising within the users’ newsfeed or from a business page can be converted within Messenger without building a mobile app or linking the customer to a large retailer such as Amazon or Walmart. Messenger plug-ins add functionality to keep customers informed of new products, specials and order status updates. Optionally, AI functionality can be added to deepen and make the interaction more natural.

Messenger isn’t a perfect solution compared to a comprehensive internet search and advertising campaign backed by native Android and iOS mobile apps. But it is much more accessible for most businesses because the Messenger chat-bot is built with JavaScript, the most popular programming language in the world and the back end can be built with any language that supports RESTful APIs. Compared to investing in mobile ad networks and search ads that drive customers into relationships with internet retailers that have large footprints on smartphone home screens, the Messenger bot approach is a first-degree relationship.  

More details about the Messenger platform and chat-bots are reviewed in my analysis from the Facebook F8 Developer Conference.

React Native empowers more companies to build native iOS and Android apps using existing developer talent.

React Native could be a good mobile development alternative for businesses that have the capabilities to operate integrated mobile ad networks and Google Adword campaigns for customer acquisition but don’t have iOS and Android development teams to build apps to convert the traffic and deliver a great native user experience. Because React Native relies on JavaScript and as much as 85 percent of the app code can be shared between iOS and Android apps, businesses building mobile apps with this framework require fewer iOS and Android platform specialists.

A more complete review can be found in my analysis of React Native from the Facebook F8 Developer Conference

Messenger bots are a beta release, and React Native is just a year old.

Both technologies are very promising but are at an early stage of development. The only way to know if they could provide a competitive advantage is to try to solve a business problem by building chat-bots and apps.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.