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DBS unveils chatbot for ordering, paying for meals through Facebook Messenger

5. Customer picking up his Kopi Ong order with the digital collection slip at a designated Foodster pickup counter.jpg
A customer picking up her Kopi Ong order with a digital collection slip at a designated Foodster pickup counter.

A CHATBOT that allows customers to order meals through Facebook Messenger and pay with DBS payment channels such as PayLah! was launched on Thursday, in a move that marks DBS Bank’s foray into the chat commerce space.

Known as Foodster, it is slated to be the first such retail chatbot led by a South-east Asian bank. It has already been trialed and adopted by seven food and beverage merchants in Marina Bay, which include Gemstar, Kopi Ong, Local Coffee People, NUDE Seafood, Old Tea Hut and Omnivore. Two merchants slated to be coming on board soon are Kopitiam and Holey Moley.

Chat commerce – also known as e-commerce using messaging platforms – allows businesses to transact within platforms that already have a large and captive pool of users.

The Foodster solution, developed by chatbot specialist Every Botty, was created with artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms which allow it to become "smarter" with each transaction. With data tools and analytics, it allows merchants to implement targeted and personalised customer loyalty programmes on the platform.

Jeremy Soo, head of consumer banking group (Singapore) at DBS Bank, noted that consumers today are more likely to have "app fatigue" and have become resistant to downloading new mobile apps.

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“If instant messaging is the way forward for people to communicate, then we need to help businesses find a way to engage their customers on such platforms simply, seamlessly and invisibly,” he said.

Benefits for merchants include allowing them to leverage Facebook’s user base and being able to handle multiple orders at a time, while helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to digitalise easily and affordably.

Kopi Ong, which sells quick-serve beverages, was the first merchant to test the Foodster solution. According to the merchant, it has seen daily sales grow by 20 per cent without additional manpower or space required.

Alfred Tan, owner of Kopi Ong, said: “With Foodster, we can survey our customers on their preferences, which then allows us to provide contextualised offers. With its real-time order dashboard at our fingertips, it enables us to optimise our store operations and better manage inventory in anticipation of peak periods."

Customers keen to use Foodster can log onto Facebook Messenger and search for participating outlets by entering the outlet’s name with a "Foodster" suffix (for example, "Kopi Ong Foodster").  It offers a menu selection, accepts customised food orders, and retains the user’s order history. It also offers eligible customers discounts and promotions.

At checkout, customers can choose to pay via DBS PayLah! or DBS/POSB debit and credit cards.

It is estimated that some 77 per cent of Singapore’s population are on mobile messaging platforms. In Asia-Pacific, the chatbot market is forecast to generate revenues of around US$350 million by 2024 – more than eight times that of the US$41 million generated in 2017.

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