- Fandango, 1-800-Flowers, Food Network and iHeartRadio are among the brands providing one-to-one communications with users via the Facebook Messenger app for Valentine's Day, according to information from the platform that was emailed to Mobile Marketer.
- 1-800-Flowers lets shoppers make purchases through the company's chatbot on Messenger. Shoppers can browse through a collection of seasonal products and connect with the online florist's customer care team for immediate assistance, all within Messenger. Fandango is offering $2 off purchases of two or more movie tickets made on the Fandango extension or bot.
- Food Network's bot for Messenger includes a "Surprise Me!" notification to provide people with tips, recipes and inspiration for a romantic meal. The brand is also updating its Meal Match feature — a game that lets people in a group chat vote which meals they like best — to include Valentine's Day-themed dishes. IHeartRadio's bot lets listeners play a variety of Valentines-themed stations like "Slow Jams Radio" and "Love Songs Radio," which will be hosted by singer Kelly Clarkson until Feb. 18.
The news points to how brands can leverage messaging apps to create one-to-one experiences for holiday's like Valentine's Day. Beyond that, these activations also suggest that brands are looking beyond creating interactive dialogs on Messenger and are increasingly consider how to drive purchases via the platform. This year, U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average of $143.56 on the holiday, up from $136.57 last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Facebook in the past couple of years has urged brands to create chatbots for its platform to open up direct lines of convenient communication with consumers. While chatbots have been criticized by some for their limited functionality and inability to hold a natural conversation with users, the technology continues to evolve with machine learning that makes bots smarter and more adaptive without the need for human intervention. Messenger also has evolved to provide a wider range of functions, although the company is also making an effort to streamline the app after letting it get too cluttered with bots, ads, alert and other features.
As the love-themed holiday approaches, not everyone is showing the love for Facebook, as many advocacy groups and parents issue a growing chorus of criticism after the social giant created a messaging platform aimed at children under 13. Messenger Kids has aroused the ire of child advocacy groups and analysts of the tech industry, especially after toymaker Mattel pulled an "Amazon Alexa-esque" device for children for fear that it would spy on kids and use the data collected for ad targeting.