Mes­sen­ger surges, reaches 800M users

Face­book plat­form plan­ning big in-app commerce push

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Marco della Cava @mar­codel­la­cava USA TO­DAY

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.

MARCO DELLA CAVA, USA TO­DAY

David Mar­cus says 2016 will be about bring­ing e-commerce to mes­sag­ing threads.

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