Chat apps are going to make B2C eCommerce a lot more like the brick-and-mortar world.

Shopify’s new Facebook Messenger integration is a sign of the times. B2C suppliers won’t just be handling queries via chat windows anymore. They’ll be selling.

Shopify’s new Facebook Messenger integration is a sign of the times. B2C suppliers won’t just be handling queries via chat windows anymore. They’ll be selling.

The Shopify integration adds a “Shop Now” function to Messenger windows. A button appears when a customer chats to a Facebook Business Page Shopify. The Customer will then be able to browse catalogues and buy products while chatting live with a seller.

It’s the “internet version of what retail used to be, where you walk into a store and share with a merchant some of your problems or the thing that you’re looking for,” as one Shopify product manager says.

Successful eCommerce companies already make chat an indispensable part of the customer experience. Research shows that 85% of online consumers in the US give return business to companies that resolve issues quickly with live chat. In other research, 44% say live chat is one of the most important features they look for while shopping online. The capacity for direct, live communication with customers has long been seen as an important part of a brand experience.

It was inevitable for a chat window to become another shop window. Perhaps it was inevitable that Facebook is the first to roll out such a feature. The social media platform has concentrated its efforts this year on allowing traders to interact more with customers, particularly to develop chatbots and artificial intelligence features to communicate through Messenger.

In other words, Facebook is taking the lead in turning chat into a sales channel. In September, it introduced a function to let users pay within Messenger without having to leave the app to enter their payment details.

Shopify’s Shop Now function is in its early days. The function is now limited to certain (albeit large) markets, including the US. The company is also still developing specific features, including around payment options and the controlling the space product images take up during the chat.

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