Last week both MoneyGram and Western Union announced the launch of SendBots that use artificial intelligence (AI) to bridge the gap between digital and brick and mortar. The expansion of Messenger “bots” at the F8 Facebook Developers conference was just one of the areas of focus for the two day event. However, this technology has now created quite a buzz in the money transfer world as the two largest international remittance companies have entered the fray.
What does this mean for the Industry? Well first let’s understand what Facebook Messenger is and why this technology is important.
First, Facebook Messenger is a communication tool that was spun out of the traditional Facebook app. It allows a user to reach out directly to other users and provide text, voice and video files. With over 1 Billion active users it represents a vast network of interconnected people around the world. But it is more than just messaging, it automates conversations.
"Bot" is a generalized term used to describe any software that automates a task. The most common are chatbots that automate the beginning of conversations. Now money transfer companies are building sendbots which automate the beginning of a transaction that is then transitioned to the MT digital platform. The actual transfer happens on their complaint, secure platform and then the notifications are pushed back to Facebook Messenger. It is all seamless to the user who enjoys the same familiar interface they expect from Facebook.
These bots use the Facebook's Wit.ai Bot Engine, which can turn natural language into structured data. It is a form of artificial intelligence that allows the bot to get smarter with each interaction. That type of functionality is exactly what digital money transfer services have been seeking and now that have a way to access it in the largest social network in the world.
But what does this mean for the industry?
While there are constant press releases from both organizations touting their online expansion and commitment to digital strategies, the Sendbot announcements signal a few changes in the industry.
Exclusivity is coming to an end.
WU and MoneyGram have dominated the brick and mortar world with exclusive contracts with large networks. They have effectively elevated the cost of entry into the market and limited competition to regional players. When Ria signed Walmart for their in-house domestic MT service, that was the beginning of the end for retail exclusivity.
In the Digital environment, exclusivity is rare given the internet’s distributed and open access, but b