Rightmove is testing an experimental Facebook Messenger bot in the London lettings market.
For the unitiated a bot is software that can execute commands, reply to messages, or perform routine tasks automatically.
Using Messenger’s informal conversational style interface, renters can search for properties, view property details, shortlist properties, book viewings and be notified when new properties are listed on Rightmove. Key phrases and words will be picked up by the bot, which will then start the process of trawling through Rightmove for appropriate homes.
The bot, created by tech company Artificial Solutions, will ask potential renters a series of questions such as what kind of home they are looking for, their budget, when they want to move in and where they would like to live near to.
Users can then create a shortlist of properties that they like, and can send a message to the agent marketing the property to book a viewing.
“Our Messenger bot enables us to explore the potential of messaging apps and conversational user interaction” says Rightmove’s head of innovation, Hannes Buhrmann.
“While searching in this way won’t replace traditional methods any time soon, messaging platforms are becoming key communication tools for many people and so we feel it’s important to learn how best to engage users through conversational interfaces such as this” he adds.
The bot can be used on its own, or for more functionality it can be used in conjunction with Rightmove’s experimental Rent London app that anyone on iOS can download through the Apple store.
As well as the usual price and property type search terms, the app lets a renter add the date they are planning to move, the destination they commute to each day and their maximum desired travel time.
They can choose a location if they know where they want to live, or they can let the app choose suitable properties within the M25 that match with their other criteria.
Once they are looking at properties, they can access neighbourhood information, including price overviews, area guides, and a comparison with neighbouring properties. The app will also suggest similar neighbourhoods in other parts of London.
Renters can tell the app whether they like or dislike a neighbourhood and the app will automatically promote properties in preferred neighbourhoods to the top of the search results.
If they choose to connect the app to Facebook Messenger they can be alerted to new properties that match their criteria directly in Messenger. Once they receive an alert in Messenger, they can ask for more details, save the property to their shortlist, or request a viewing without leaving Messenger.