Did you hear? Absolut Vodka is giving out free drinks.

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

That headline alone attracted your attention, right? It’s true. But only if you live in Denver, New York, Chicago, Dallas or Washington D.C.

As part of a new advertising campaign on its Facebook site, users can look at participating bars, select what cocktail they’d like to have, get a special code, go to the bar, give the code to the bartender…and drink up! A free Lyft ride home is also included (to satisfy Absolut’s attorneys, I’m sure).

This is about Facebook Messenger. And bots.

A bot is a software program that acts like it’s human.We’re seeing them more and more online and on our mobile devices–you get food suggestions based on what you like to eat, fashion accessories suggested based on what you buy, financial information from your bank and even weather based on your location–all in a conversational tone and all automated.

Facebook has been expanding its support for bots on its Messenger service, which is why you’re getting customized headlines from CNN, the ability to order flowers from 1-800-Flowers, health advice and clothing suggestions. But up until now, when a bot asks you if you want to buy something and you say yes, you’re redirected to a website to submit payment information. And that’s been frustrating for both Facebook users (who already have their payment information stored with the social media service) and its advertisers–small and large companies–who want to close the deal immediately and not force the user to take extra steps, submit more information and potentially lose interest.

That just changed.  Sure, Absolut is giving out discount codes for drinks. But for your customers who are ready to buy based on a Facebook Messenger bot-conversation, they now can…immediately.

There’s a new buy button on Messenger bots and it’ll work with most financial and credit card services, according to an announcement made by Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference Monday. “Inside a thread you (now) have identity, transaction capabilities, the ability to draw UI (user interface), and draw native buttons and interfaces,” he told TechCrunch.  The company is also giving developers more guidance on how to build successful Messenger experiences.

The announcement could have a big impact on the many small businesses that advertise and engage with their customers on Facebook–from pet store owners to travel agencies to beauty salons. Smart business owners will work with developers and consultants to create advertising campaigns that will use Messenger bots to engage, excite, and now accept payments from customers all over the world…and all automatically.

The smarter ones, of course, will take Absolut up on its offer for a free drink.


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