Part of the beauty of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store is the ability to speak with a person who can help you solve a specific problem or just help you find what you’re looking for. What if you could make that personal engagement happen for your merchants’ e-commerce customers as well? By integrating with Facebook Messenger, Shopify is doing just that.

Facebook has been clear about its plans to allow users to conduct just about any daily activity from within its app. The company announced less than a month ago that it was enabling businesses to sell directly within Messenger, following on the peer-to-peer payments the company began enabling on its Messenger app over a year ago.

Now, Shopify is making the technology easy for its merchants to implement. Last week, the company announced that Shopify merchants who wish to offer the service could simply add the Messenger channel to their Shopify account and connect their Facebook business page to the account.

The service is available to merchants in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, the company said.

According to Shopify, the integration with Messenger extends beyond its role as a payment facilitator; the functionality is also supported on third party gateways. However, such features add value for payment facilitators as well, said Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group and publisher of

“As a payments provider with a well-tuned infrastructure, Shopify is able to leverage the potential of Messenger as an option for its merchants. Companies of Shopify’s size are going to do a lot of the innovation for the industry. But a lot of payment facilitators will have the capability to use these new payment modalities, like paying from chat, within their own verticals,” Ablowitz said.

The capability opens up an intriguing new sales channel, shortening the time from customer engagement to purchase. For months, companies such as Facebook and Shopify have been talking about the potential for chat as a channel where merchants could realize “contextual commerce” –  where making purchases is enabled in a natural, seamless way within other activities.

The idea behind the Shopify / Facebook Messenger integration is that merchants can use chatbots to suggest products to shoppers during a real-time conversation, much as they would be able to do face-to-face.

Consumers wishing to shop through the channel will start a Messenger chat with the merchant. During the chat, they can click Shop Now to navigate through a series of choices that allow them to browse the products the merchant has chosen to display through the channel. Once they’ve chosen a product, they purchase it through Shopify, all within the Messenger chat window.

“This can help you build the same strong, one-to-one relationships neighborhood store owners once built with their customers. Establishing these deep, personal relationships is how you build brand loyalty; it’s how you build a company people love,” Shopify said in a blog post on its web site.

This idea continues on the rationale Shopify shared when announcing its integration with Facebook Messenger for customer service activity such as order confirmations, shipping updates, and other notifications.

“Before the online store, building a relationship with someone who sold you something was part of the shopping experience. Messenger, and conversational commerce in general, brings that aspect back, giving you an opportunity to connect with your customers again, to know their names, and to offer them real-time, personalized service,” the company said.