When Apple took its new Business Chat platform out of beta earlier this year (in the US), the launch seemed more like a ‘whimper’ than a loud, resounding ‘bang’. But a few short months can make a big difference. Let us take a look and see what is new…
Apple did not exactly throw down the gauntlet and forcibly challenge Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp for commercial conversation dominance when the company took Apple Business Chat out of beta launch in April 2018. However, there were a few key areas in which the platform excelled – which we covered in a previous blog. Principally, these areas were:
Conversely, there were several areas we felt Apple would need to address in order to optimize Business Chat’s chances of success:
But none of these issues have become sticking points it seems.
So what has Apple done to improve Business Chat? Well, firstly, it has attracted a number of other commercial partners – brands using the service and integrating it into their own apps: such as DISH Network, the TV provider, which has adopted Apple Business Chat to connect customers with live agents – allowing them to make changes to their account, schedule appointments, and order pay-per-view TV.
Similarly, American Express has launched a pilot program; allowing customers to review account information, balances, payments, and order new cards via Business Chat – while hospitality group, Four Seasons, has adopted Business Chat to allow guests to search for different hotels and make multilingual inquiries.
But perhaps the most interesting use case comes courtesy of foodservice brand, Aramark; who is trialing Apple Business Chat at Philadelphia Phillies’ baseball stadium, Citizens Bank Park, allowing fans to order drinks and have them delivered to their seats during games. The service called ‘Brew2You’ will be a feature at 10 games in the near future.
Overall, it seems that Business Chat’s biggest calling card is still Apple Pay integration. According to reports, Apple Pay saw "well over" 1 billion transactions in Q3 2018 – three times more year-on-year. And with Pay active in 24 countries and already challenging the likes of Square and PayPal; more doors could soon open for Business Chat through its close allegiance.
Apple Business Chat is available on any Apple device that supports iOS 11.3 – including Apple Watches. This means that conversations started on one device can easily be continued on another – as long as user accounts are synced.
All of this new activity is fantastic, and – to be honest – was expected. But the big question is – are end users actively using Apple Business Chat? No actual figures are available, but, as mentioned before, its presence across all future Apple devices is a pretty safe bet it will be widely adopted globally. But, for the most part, it is still US-only: except for the recent concierge service launched during this year’s Cannes Lions marketing festival; which marked Apple Business Chat’s European debut.
Overall, the future for Apple Business Chat – and messaging services in general is overwhelmingly positive. According to Gartner, support requests over consumer messaging apps will exceed those coming in from social media by 2019. And Nielsen reports that 56% of consumers prefer messaging to calling, with 67% expecting to message more over the next two years.
The real test will be if Business Chat can transcend being an ‘online only’ application. On-demand customer service is an expected feature of everyday commerce; but giving brands the opportunity to build out simple messaging services and offer purchases, appointment scheduling, bookings, reservations etc – through a single interface – is an attractive proposition for businesses and consumers. Bolt on reporting and tracking for brands; plus throw in voice-activated search and video chat via FaceTime (which are coming), and something that on the surface looks low effort and efficient has the potential to become an enhanced interactive customer experiencean enhanced interactive customer experience.