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Facebook is extending its Messenger app into a platform that will support third-party developers and allow businesses to interact with customers via real-time chat, the popular social network announced today during its F8 conference in San Francisco.

The concept is that Messenger will act as a support and marketing channel for businesses. Facebook is working with some early partners in Everlane and Zulily that will allow customers to send the business messages on Messenger.

The business can reply with a normal text message, of course, but there’s more options too. Custom layouts can be used to send messages that act as an order confirmation, shipping updates, and more.

Examples of how messages can look with custom layouts.
Examples of how messages can look with custom layouts.

Facebook is partnering with Zendesk to help businesses accept support inquiries over Messenger. Businesses won’t have to switch the live chat provider they’re already using, so long as that application supports integration with Messenger.

Facebook says businesses will be able to use their existing live chat provider to integrate with Messenger for Business.
Facebook says businesses will be able to use their existing live chat provider to integrate with Messenger for Business.

What will appeal to marketers at many businesses will be the ability to send customers push notifications through Messenger. This doesn’t require an app to be developed by the business itself.

Messenger for Business allows for push notifications to be sent to customers.
Messenger for Business allows for push notifications to be sent to customers.

Facebook is taking sign ups on its website from businesses interested in using Messenger.

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