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This week Dutch airline KLM said its customers could start getting their boarding passes directly through Facebook Messenger. Eventually, it plans sell tickets through the chat app too. Late last year Uber made it possible to order one of its cars through Messenger. Since then, Facebook has been working with two dozen businesses to launch services through Messenger, a chat app that’s morphing into a Swiss army knife of services that could one day rival the very platforms (iOS and Android) it sits on.
Expect to see a stream of businesses up on stage at Facebook’s annual developer’s conference on April 12 and 13 in San Francisco, eager to join KLM and Uber. Facebook won’t comment on who might be there, or how many, but tech executives widely expect to see a number of partners that will help kickstart Facebook’s ambitions to turn Messenger into a new platform for three key areas: e-commerce, advertising and customer service.
While there will be human customer service agents manning some of these new business accounts — as they already do for Messenger’s early e-commerce partners like Zulily — chatbots will ultimately be key to making these three areas work. Bots are relatively simple forms of software that can hold automated conversations with people, and they’ve become integral to the strategies of other tech firms like Microsoft , Slack and Kik Messenger.
Several months ago Facebook released an SDK (software development kit) that allowed developers to make bots that could automatically respond on behalf of businesses to simple questions.
With less than two weeks to go till Facebook’s big conference, that toolkit is still a work in progress and is currently being re-built, according to Christian Brucculeri, CEO of software marketing firm Snaps, who added that he didn’t know when Facebook would release the new version.
Brands who traditionally spend their ad dollars on Google suggested search results or Facebook’s News Feed, are now looking to Messenger as a new and potentially more intimate space in which to engage with an audience.
That could go incredibly well or very badly, depending on whether users find it off-putting to see advertisers invading an area they traditionally associate with family and friends.
New York-based Snaps traditionally makes money by building branded emojis and keyboards for big brands like Burger King and Pepsi . Millions of people have, for instance, download Snap’s Burger King Chicken Fries keyboard from the App Store and sent carb-coated chicken stickers and emojis through iMessage.
Female iPhone users in their 20s tend to gravitate towards the branded emojis, while their male counterparts are more interested in GIFs, says Brucculeri, and so far about 60% of people discover these keyboards in the app store, with the rest find them by accident on a messaging app like Kik, Tango or Viber.
Snaps has now been busy building chatbots for about 20 of its clients, due to launch on Messenger in the second quarter with more coming after that.
Just like the content-heavy Facebook pages that brands already make, these bots will fill a role of being both useful and promotional. “If you want to know how to get coffee stains out of a shirt, you could you just go chat to a detergent company on Messenger and type ‘coffee,’” he explains, adding that you could also start chatting to a spices company and simply type “salmon” to get recipe ideas.
“It doesn’t disrupt chat but enhances it,” Brucculeri insists, adding that Facebook’s toolkit for bots will let businesses put unique features like photo carousels and suggested-responses directly into a chat.
But Facebook is just like everyone else, in not knowing how well people will engage with branded chat bots on Messenger. “They’re trying to figure out how the consumers are going to engage with these things.”
Some have looked to Asia for an idea of how people might interact with business bots. Chat platforms like WeChat are so ubiquitous on people’s phones they’re practically portals to the Web. The Chinese frequently use WeChat to send money, pay for taxis or book any number of services. KLM’s new feature on Messenger could thus, for instance, emulate South China Airlines’s official account on WeChat, which lets you chat to its bot to search and book flights.
Facebook can’t just copy WeChat’s strategy though, because of the big “cultural, regulatory, historical and practical differences between Asian and Western markets,” says Edison Investment Research analyst Richard Windsor. Analysts in China have also said that that smartphone users in China accept bots more readily than their Western counterparts.
Windsor believes Facebook could double its revenues in five years if it can build a thriving ecosystem for advertisers and businesses on Messenger, but the first few months after Facebook’s F8 announcements will see plenty of experimentation by cautious businesses.
Businesses don’t know, for instance, how they’ll initiate conversations with consumers on chat, or if they can rely on being pulled into conversations between users. “We don’t really know how consumers will behave,” says Snaps CEO Brucculeri. “How can you enhance a conversation between two people, and how can a brand get in the middle in a way that’s additive, rather than, ‘Hey I’m going to talk to a brand on Messenger.’”
Facebook also faces competition in building a platform for chatbots. More than 80 advertisers have already been paying Kik Messenger for more than a year to set up chatbots on its network of 200 million users, while there are thousands of third-party bots on rival chat app Telegram, which has 100 million active users.
This week Microsoft also launched a bot framework that would allow developers to make bots for messaging applications like Skype, Slack and Telegram. “Bots are like the new applications you can converse with,” Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella was quoted as saying.
Microsoft’s strategy is interesting because anyone who makes a bot with its framework also gets access to its digital assistant Cortana and machine-learning technology that’s part of its so-called “Intelligence Suite.”
Microsoft might not have the kind of huge scope that Facebook Messenger has, but its digital assistant is far ahead of Facebook’s own digital assistant M, (which is largely powered by human beings), and that could also make its toolset for bot builders just as attractive as Facebook’s.
1. General Liability Insurance: Every business, even if home-based, needs to have liability insurance. The policy provides both defense and damages if you, your employees, or your products or services cause or are alleged to have caused bodily injury or property damage to a third party.
2. Property Insurance: If you own your building or have business personal property (including office equipment, computers, inventory, or tools) you should consider purchasing a policy that will protect you if you have a fire, vandalism, theft, smoke damage, etc. You may also want to consider business interruption/loss of earning insurance as part of the policy to protect your earnings if the business is unable to operate.
3. Business Owner’s Policy (BOP): A business owner policy packages all required coverage a business owner would need. Often, BOPs will include business interruption insurance, property insurance, vehicle coverage, liability insurance, and crime insurance. Based on your company’s specific needs, you can alter what is included in a BOP. Typically, a business owner will save money by choosing a BOP because the bundle of services often costs less than the total cost of all the individual coverages.
4. Commercial Auto Insurance: Commercial auto insurance protects a company’s vehicles. You can protect vehicles that carry employees, products, or equipment. With commercial auto insurance you can insure your work cars, SUVs, vans and trucks from damage and collisions. If you do not have company vehicles, but employees drive their own cars on company business, you should have non-owned auto liability to protect the company in case the employee does not have insurance or has inadequate coverage. Many times the non-owned can be added to the BOP policy.
5. Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ compensation provides insurance to employees who are injured on the job. This type of insurance provides wage replacement and medical benefits to those who are injured while working. In exchange for these benefits, the employee gives up his rights to sue his employer for the incident. As a business owner, it is very important to have workers’ compensation insurance because it protects yourself and your company from legal complications. State laws will vary, but all require you to have workers’ compensation if you have W2 employees. Penalties for non-compliance can be very stiff.
6. Professional Liability Insurance: This type of insurance is also known as Errors and Omissions insurance. The policy provides defense and damages for failure to or improperly rendering professional services. Your general liability policy does not provide this protection, so it is important to understand the difference. Professional liability insurance is applicable for any professional firm including lawyers, accountants, consultants, notaries, real estate agents, insurance agents, hair salons, and technology providers, to name a few.
7. Directors and Officers Insurance: This type of insurance protects the directors and officers of a company against their actions that affect the profitability or operations of the company. If a director or officer of your company, as a direct result of their actions on the job, finds him or herself in a legal situation, this type of insurance can cover costs or damages lost as a result of a lawsuit.
8. Data Breach: If the business stores sensitive or non-public information about employees or clients on their computers, servers, or in paper files, they are responsible for protecting that information. If a breach occurs either electronically or from a paper file a Data Breach policy will provide protection against the loss.
9. Life Insurance: Life insurance is a personal policy that protects an individual against death. If you have life insurance, the insurer pays a certain amount of money to a beneficiary upon your death. You pay a premium in exchange for the payment of benefits to the beneficiary. This type of insurance is very important because it allows for peace of mind. Having life insurance allows you to know that your loved ones will not be burdened financially upon your death.
10. Umbrella Insurance: You may want some additional coverage on top of insurance policies you already have. This is where umbrella insurance comes into play. This type of insurance is an extension to an already existing insurance policy and covers beyond the regular policy. This insurance can cover different kinds of claims. Generally, it is sold in increments of $1 million and is used only when liability on other policies has been exhausted.
If you have questions about any of these policies or would like to review the coverage you have in place for your business, please contact your give our office a call at 925-478-5903.