USA TODAY US Edition
Messenger surges, reaches 800M users
Facebook platform planning big in-app commerce push
David Marcus looks a bit too chipper for an early morning meeting in this late-night town. But he’s got reason to be bouncy.
Facebook’s 4-year-old Messenger platform, which Marcus oversees, has hit 800 million monthly users, up 100 million from six months ago.
The Facebook vice president, who was lured away from his PayPal presidency by Mark Zuckerberg two years ago, broke the news in a blog post Thursday morning.
“We have critical mass now,” Marcus, 42, says with a smile, tucked into a private nook at Facebook’s discreet temporary offices at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.
But that large number isn’t the big prize. Rather, it merely represents a solidifying foundation upon which Marcus and his team are intent on building a mobile messaging platform to end all rival platforms.
Not that you’ll get such hyperbole from the soft-spoken French-born businessman. What you will get is a clear vision of Messenger morphing into a onestop destination for communicating with friends and interacting with merchants.
“Making purchases in a contextual thread is much easier and more intuitive,” Marcus says. “You get the right interactions at the right time without constantly having to log into separate apps whose passwords you likely have forgotten.”
Last month, Facebook announced that Uber rides could be booked via Messenger conversation threads without hopping over to an Uber app. And sometime later this quarter the company will trumpet a similar partnership with airline KLM.
Marcus pops open his laptop to give a sneak preview of what KLM interactions will look like. Beyond confirming flight and payment information, the Messenger platform will also allow users to contact airline representatives through the app. The example on the screen shows a message from KLM announcing a delay and a would-be user replying with a query about other possible flights.
“This year is going to be all about opening the platform to more services,” says Marcus, noting that 50 million businesses currently have pages on Messenger.
“Commerce is going to be huge for us. Think about it, for so long doing business was always conversational. Web (e-commerce) is truly an anomaly. It feels good to have a more human relationship when you’re buying things, which is why we think brands will like this approach.”
What some are calling “conversational commerce” seems likely to hit your smartphone in a big way this year as some of the most popular messaging services — which include Messenger and Facebook’s WhatsApp, as well as Google’s Gchat and Apple’s iMessage — bring useful app interactions into the communication thread.
In function, these are all playing catch-up to China’s mammoth messaging service, WeChat, which enables users to shop and book tickets as they chat.