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Facebook’s vision for e-commerce using Messenger, from an internal email from Zuckerberg

Facebook’s vision for e-commerce using Messenger, from an internal email from Zuckerberg

In 2014, Mark Zuckerberg wrote an internal email to his executive team outlining his vision for Messenger and e-commerce:

It was a 14-page email outlining how he envisioned Messenger becoming a performance-based ads business and how he imagined consumers and businesses to communicate through Messenger.

Some of his vision has come to fruition, and some have not. But it’s a fascinating piece into how he thought about Messenger and e-commerce back in 2014. And it sheds light into how Facebook is still working towards that vision.

He believed Facebook and Messenger should have e-commerce infrastructure like payments. But this infrastructure serves the ad business, and is not intended to be profitable on its own:

He envisioned consumers being able to purchase something right inline on Messenger:

He was sensitive to the fact that businesses messaging people out of the blue was a bad user experience. So he suggested Facebook starts this by letting users initiate Messenger threads with businesses (like commenting on a post made by a FB Business page):

And he wanted the businesses to reply back instantly and automatically to answer questions and take purchase orders:

The vision for payments through Messenger was to store credit card or bank account info, and allow users to send money through Messenger.

While the credentials on file has become reality, the social norm he talks about hasn’t taken hold yet. But this is the direction Facebook is going - to allow customers to buy from businesses through Messenger. You can imagine a Messenger thread like this:

Customer: 101
Business: Sure, happy to get the turtleneck sweater for you. What size?
Customer: m
Business: Got it, medium. What color?
Customer: gray
Business: Got it, here’s your invoice for the gray medium turtleneck sweater
Customer: <clicks Pay button and checks out while staying in Messenger>

Facebook wants everyone’s CC or bank account info stored in Facebook to enable these types of payments and transactions. In order to do this, they needed to normalize person-to-person money transfers:

If they can get payments to flow through Messenger, then businesses can sell through Messenger. At best, this enables a whole new performance-based ads business within Messenger. At worst, it just reinforces a business’ ad spend on Facebook since the entire customer journey from discovery through an ad to checkout on Messenger stays within Facebook.

Facebook recently changed its name to Meta. And Zuckberberg also mentioned a “meta-assistant” concept in this 2014 letter:

He admits this meta-assistant concept sounds far-fetched, but is “simple to build” if businesses can automatically and instantly respond to customers:

The takeaway for us is that automatic selling through lives and comments and FB Shops is here to stay. Facebook wants 3rd party developers to enable Messenger to facilitate automatic private messages between businesses and shoppers. Their preference is to have the checkout happen inside of Messenger. But they will not build the entire e-commerce infrastructure like inventory management, fulfillment, etc.

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Jamie Larson