Last week Facebook announced the launch of its Messenger payments service in the UK, which is the first market outside the US. This is part of its long-term strategy to establish Messenger as an essential tool in the lives of consumers.

While Facebook has formed an effective duopoly with Google when it comes to digital ad revenues, Facebook is not leading the race when it comes to the most sophisticated communication platform. Its Asian rival Tencent has already successfully established P2P payments in WeChat - a Messenger platform at its core but equipped with incremental functions including, but not limited, to P2P payments. With nearly 900 million users, WeChat is a ubiquitous tool and a total success story, which Facebook is keen to replicate to add incremental revenue streams. So what does this mean for British supermarkets and retailers?

Sebastian Redenz

The rise of P2P payments is a phenomenon that has developed off the back of smart technology to help people connect. The emergence of fast-moving payment merchants like Skrill, Revolut or Monzo highlights that there is a market for businesses that enable people to send microtransactions through a smartphone app, bypassing entering account holder details and transaction codes.

At first glance, it’s nothing more than one small feature with the ability to split the groceries bill via the Messenger app. However, what Facebook really wants to understand is if, ultimately, there is a case to develop Messenger into a pre-paid digital banking alternative.

There are vast opportunities for supermarkets. Facebook’s own data suggests that 53% of people are more likely to shop with a business they can message directly and 56% of people would rather message than call customer services. Supermarkets can boost sales for their online store by adding Messenger as a placement in its direct response campaigns with the objective to drive people to order food online.

Another recent release is the Click to Messenger ad unit that encourages people to start a conversation with a business through Messenger. Paired with a clever bot, customers can go through an automated experience that delivers the booking of service appointments.

With data generated by Messenger payment use, Facebook can also create datasets on people who use Messenger payment. Combined with signals on geodata, frequency and recency, this can help supermarkets understand how often and where people manage their microtransactions. In most cases, this will accrue to groceries and supermarkets would then be able to target these people with messaging related to their behaviour to create new opportunities for purchase.

Relevant experiences can be delivered by levering geodata in a smart way. And we anticipate the integration of Messenger Payment with Facebook’s Lead Gen ad unit. This will allow consumers to book and pay for services directly through the newsfeed with Messenger. Fancy ordering and paying for your next Christmas turkey directly via your Facebook newsfeed?

Sebastian Redenz is head of paid social at iProspect UK