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Facebook Starts Turning Messenger Into a Shopping Platform

Partnerships with Everlane and Zulily will allow those companies, for starters, to send receipts and shipping updates via Messenger.

Kurt Wagner for Re/code
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Facebook Messenger is still best known as a communication tool for friends and family. But Facebook is trying to make it critical for businesses, too.

The most recent example of this was outlined on Wednesday, when Facebook announced partnerships with two shopping sites to let them use Facebook Messenger as a customer service tool. The partnerships with online clothing site Everlane and flash sale site Zulily will allow those companies to send receipts and shipping updates via Messenger. An image Facebook posted on its blog also suggests that shoppers can use Messenger to add an item to an existing order that was originally placed on the retailer’s own site.

The move to let e-commerce companies use Messenger as a customer service tool is just one of many bets Facebook is placing as it tries to transform Messenger into a platform for all types of communication beyond chatting with friends and family. And it’s a clear sign that the social network is laying the groundwork to let people buy stuff other than stickers on Messenger, as overseas messaging apps such as WeChat and Line are already allowing.

Facebook recently announced that people will soon be able to send money to friends through Messenger, which will help get Facebook users to hand over payment card info to the social network. Facebook also announced on Wednesday at its F8 developers conference that it is working with developers who are building other types of apps specifically for Messenger.

For companies like Zulily and Everlane, Messenger could also become an effective way to connect with customers as it gets harder to reach them on email, thanks in part to Gmail’s move to filter marketing emails into a separate folder outside of the main inbox. Gilt, for example, is one of many flash sales and deals companies that have been hurt by Gmail’s changes.

Customers of sites partnering with Facebook have to opt in to allow retailers to contact them on Messenger. Everlane is using the service primarily to send information and answer questions about existing orders. In time, it seems likely that customers could place new orders that way, too.

“Over time we think this will become a way to not only build stronger relationships with customers, but to ultimately drive demand and new purchases,” CEO Michael Preysman told Re/code in an email.

Here’s what the new feature looks like:

Facebook Messenger shopping business

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