The bad User Interface of Today’s Facebook Shopping Bots

Spring's personal shopping assistant on Messenger

When Facebook launched the bot platform on top of Messenger we had a look at the Spring shopping bot and were not impressed.

Buzzfeed went further and the verdict is not good:

It just so happens I need a new pair of gym sneakers, so this seemed perfect for me to try out.

Little did I know it would entail almost two and a half hours, endless frustration, and near constant shaming by the bot over my budget. You know how when you go to a store, and you’re dreading the salesperson will saying, “Can I help you find something?” It’s like that, but 10 times worse. Instead of creating a faster and better experience, it was like going into a fancy store and instead of being allowed to browse the racks, a rude and pushy salesperson brought out items one by one to see if you liked them.

Here is one of many spot-on, specific remarks:

Looking at one item at a time is a really, really, time consuming and annoying way to shop. (..)

I couldn’t tell if there were better options out there when it was just showing me one shoe at a time, and it’s annoying to have to keep telling it “no” when it would serve up something either out of my budget or I just didn’t like.
All in it took me about two and a half hours, and I even cheated by eventually just pulling up the ShopSpring website on my computer. It’s horrifically inefficient.

It is remarkable that Spring shipped this bot interface and even more remarkable that this very bad user experience got heavily promoted by Facebook at the launch event.

There is a lot of potential in “conversational commerce” but the Facebook Messenger platform specifically clearly has a long way to go before it will be useful to users.

In my article on Facebook’s current bots I concluded:

What can a (mobile) messaging environment genuinely bring to the (shopping) table?

Certainly more than just the environment for a “curated” narrow path to the same product selection that can be found at the old-fashioned online shop, one presumes.

(A sidenote: The bot topic is clearly driven by VCs and companies like Facebook trying to find a way around the main appstore’s gatekeeper and bad filter dynamics. Not everyone can just go and build themselves an Echo.)

More on this topic:


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