Foursquare launches a bot for food and drink recommendations

Steven Loeb · May 25, 2016 · Short URL:

Marsbot is currently available on iOS in New York City and San Francisco

One of the most interesting trends in the first half of this year has been the number of companies, particularly in the social space, that have been turning to bots. Companies like Facebook, Shopify and Kik have been pointing to bots as the future of social interaction,.

The latest to get into the bot game is Foursquare, with the launch of Marsbot on Tuesday, which will tell users where to eat or drink "before you think to ask for it."

The company makes it very clear that Marsbot is not a chatbot. It won't talk to users, or answer their questions; all it will do is give them recommendations based on their location, which is something Foursquare says only it can do thanks to its "vast location intelligence."

"We think of Marsbot as that best friend who knows what you love, where you hang out— and also happens to know all the best places in your city," Marissa Chacko, Product Manager at Foursquare, wrote.

"Like my bestie, Marsbot learns that I’m into pistachio gelato and I spend most of my time in The Mission. Like my bestie, Marsbot texts me when it discovers a new chai spot opening around the corner from my office. And like my bestie, Marsbot isn’t perfect, but is always full of good intentions."

Right now access to Marsbot is limited. It's only available on iOS and to those who live in either New York City or in San Francisco. 

Obviously this is an early iteration of the bot, and scope is limited, but it will interesting to see if Foursquare eventually takes it beyond only locations for food and drink.

The rise of bots

2016 has seen a number of companies making bots a part of their social strategy going forward.

Kik, for example, launched its own bot store in April, following its purchase of fashion advice bot Blynk in December. The Bot Shop features bots from a list of Kik's partners, including Funny Or Die, Riffsy, Sephora, Vine, and The Weather Channel.

In April, Shopify bought chat bot Kit CRM, a virtual marketing assistant that leverages messaging to help businesses market their online stores.

Kit can build Facebook ads targeted to the audience most likely to buy, and it can also build carousel ads to market several products at once. Kit can also update fans with Facebook posts and email marketing campaigns when there are new products to showcase. And it can send personalized thank you emails to new and repeat customers after a purchase to build brand loyalty.

The acquisition of Kit came only a day after Shopify announced that it would be integrating with the new Facebook Messenger Platform, which gave tools to 50 million businesses so that they can build their own chat bots to reach the 900 million users on Facebook Messenger.

Earlier this month Google unveiled smart messaging app Allo, which has Smart Reply built in, so users can respond to messages without typing a single word. Smart Reply learns over time and will show suggestions that are in the user's style. It also features the Google assistant. 

Most recently, Microsoft released a bot called Rowe, which gathers articles that the users will want to read based on their interests, with personalized suggestions based on a user's social media likes. 

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