The bot provides two core services. Users can opt in receive daily inspiration on Christmas planning in the form of short videos, gifs and images, which are sent to them through Messenger at the time of day of their choosing and can either focus on food, home, or both.
The other main application is browsing and advice on a series of curated Christmas menus, with links to order built into the app. Alongside these, the bot offers dreadful Christmas cracker-style jokes and will at a later date introduce a cameo appearance from Percy Pig.
There are also Easter eggs; users who swear in the chat, for example, will receive a response such as "Someone needs to put the kettle on and bite into one of our mince pies."
The project was created by Jon Gaiger, Helena Olsson and Maricris Llanillo, and the technology led by Sam Gibbs and Matt Booth.
The service was created by the retailer’s lead agency Grey London, which entered the idea into the Facebook Creative Shop Christmas Hackathon, an initiative to foster creative brand uses of Facebook’s platforms.
Of around 40 entries, Grey’s idea was one of five chosen to get feedback from Facebook’s vice-president of Messenger, David Marcus, and chief creative officer of Facebook’s Creative Shop, Mark D’Arcy.
Speaking to Campaign, Grey’s chief strategy officer, Matt Tanter, said the aims of the app for M&S were twofold.
"It’s trying to take them and experiment with new platforms and technologies to engage with consumers in ever more relevant and personalised ways – and collapsing that gap between inspiration and transaction," Tanter said.
"M&S has always been incredible at setting the stall out for extraordinary and delicious food, but we recognise that both the spaces where that inspiration takes place, and bridging the gap to transaction as seamlessly as possible is the name of the game."
Eric Oldrin, head of emerging platforms at Facebook Creative Shop, praised the Christmas Concierge, saying it "laid the groundwork for a powerful conversational commerce experience on Messenger."
The project is intended as "a first step on a platform of conversational commerce" for M&S, Sam Gibbs, emerging technology director at Grey, said. It would be followed with further campaigns around other key retail moments, he added.
"Every time you’re testing a new campaign you’re learning and adding to the experience," Gibbs said. "The great thing about Messenger is that once you’ve started a conversation with someone, you can build on that conversation going forward. We know your name, we might know your shopping habits."