Late last week, Apple revealed that they were beginning to test its’ Business Chat feature for a few companies across the U.S. Apple’s Business Chat works similar to Facebook Messenger in that it allows consumers to chat with businesses in a familiar messaging format. At a time where a select few features are keeping users on the Facebook platform, Apple’s release is surely not a welcome one for the social networking giant.
To begin, Business Chat will feature only a select few companies – including Apple, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, 1-800-Flowers and a few others. A number of industries are represented on this list, which should serve as good case studies for designing future interactions. These blueprints will be needed because as far as user experience goes, Business Chat differs a bit from some of the messaging offerings that came before it.
No where in Apple’s verbiage do they describe these services as a chatbot, a major difference to platforms like Facebook, Slack, SMS, Kik, etc. Instead, Apple wants you to believe there’s a real person behind the conversation at all times.
For this reason, not everyone can go into a basic chatbot builder and deploy their experience to Business Chat. In order to use it, businesses must integrate one of several approved customer service platforms. This is a smart move on Apple’s part. Consumers are going to want quick and easy customer service and straightforward ecommerce abilities – allowing consumers to quickly checkout with Apple Pay. Apple aims to cut out all the clutter of previous chat experiences by going with this route. They also understand that these conversations are going to live right next to your ongoing conversations, with, you guessed it, real people. So keep it familiar.
In order to get into one of these Business Chat experiences, consumers can access them through a companies organic digital presence, from Apple Maps listings, spotlight search, and through siri search results. The conversation however, must take place through Messages.
Business Chat is going to be a seamless way to reach and interact with consumers at scale. Apple is allowing businesses to reach their consumers at a place that they visit 10s if not hundreds of times a day, their Messages app. If your business currently uses one of the approved customer service platforms (including LivePerson, SalesForce, Nuance, Genesys, ZenDesk, and inTheChat) it’s well worth it to sign up for the beta program and begin the process of getting your Business Chat identity.
Additionally, it would make sense that Apple could use Business Chat as it’s avenue towards bringing third party services into its Siri platform. While Siri can only discover these businesses now, it would make sense that she’ll soon be able to be used as an interaction point as well. Amazon and Google opened up their platform to third party services and have been acquiring users left and right. Meanwhile, Siri has suffered and Apple has continued with its closed doors policy. Business Chat could be the avenue in, and if and when they do allow for those types of interactions, it will be incredibly important for advertisers to have their infrastructure in place.