After introducing peer-to-peer in its Messenger app, Facebook today introduced group payments in Messenger. The service basically lets you send or receive payments from group members conveniently using the Messenger app, which is a great idea considering that most conversations and decisions happen in a messaging app.
For a service that started back in 2015, it hasn’t picked up even though Facebook is a worldwide service. However, with more apps jumping on to the mobile payments bandwagon, is this the future for messaging apps? WeChat’s WeChat Pay success story could have the answer.
Facebook Messenger’s payment service has plenty of connections that go way back. In March 2015, Facebook introduced its peer-to-peer payment service for the US market. Users could use debit cards from US banks and send money to friends using the popular messaging app.
In the same month at F8, a Facebook developers’ conference, Facebook also announced that it would start letting users interact with businesses on its social network. With Messenger now announced as a platform the possibilities were indeed limitless because users would also be able to open compatible third-party apps inside messenger.
Move to April 2016, and Facebook introduced its bot platform with an API to build chat bots that would interact with users.  And with group payments introduced today, it all adds up to what appears be the next big thing with messaging services — payments.
But two years later, Messenger may have many users, but its payments front has yet to pick up pace. And there are reasons for this. For starters, the service only works with debit cards issued by US banks. Users also have to live in the United States as the services are not available outside the US.
It’s all about how it’s done
While sending money via the messaging app is effective, it literally is way behind WeChat, its competitor from the Far East.
WeChat takes a different approach to the same. Its payment service is called WeChat Pay and you can not only send payments to friends and family, but even use the service to pay for daily items at retailers and even book a taxi.
The back end is run by Tencent (parent company) and supports a long list of both credit and debit cards in payments. More importantly, it even works with cards opened in the US and Canada (billing address needed).
As tested out by Tech in Asia, you can literally head into popular stores and buy everything from clothing to groceries. As reported by Reuters, Tencent charged its users 0.01 percent per transaction back in 2016. Tencent through its WeChat payments was expected to make twice as much as PayPal processed in a year.
Line Pay is another messaging app that took off in 2014. Similar to WeChat, the messaging app Line (that comes from Japan), allows for payments not just between users but even to other services. More importantly, Line Pay is available globally, unlike WeChat which is only available in China. Line also allows businesses to connect to customers using its Line@ app.
Everyone’s looking at payments
Truecaller, a popular crowd-sourced call filtering app, received a major update, one that also included a new Flash Messaging section and Truecaller Pay. The call filtering service that is now also a messaging service embraces Digital India and allows for cashless payments, allowing millions of users in the country to make a payment by either using their UPI ID or a mobile number registered with BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money).
The service however does not work via its messaging app, but, like WeChat, can be used to do more than just peer-to peer payments.
WhatsApp too is said to be working on a digital payment system that will once again use UPI. The messaging service is looking to hire an expert in Aadhaar, UPI and Bhim and is expected to launch a payments interfaced in 6 month’s time.
Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp’s reach will be far wider and will give a boost to digital transactions, provided it is implemented in the right manner. Hopefully it doesn’t repeat Facebook’s mistakes with Messenger.
Payments from mobile messaging apps are picking up pace. And with little to show in terms of features, they might as well turn into payment systems that could help boost their app usage.
Publish date: April 12, 2017 2:11 pm| Modified date: April 12, 2017 2:11 pm