Conversational commerce has taken off with consumers using text and voice for things like ordering food, buying products, and paying bills. Now Apple, in partnership with major retailers, has launched a beta version of Business Chat, as the following article describes.
With the recent release of the iOS 11.3 update, Apple device owners can now use the beta version of Apple Business Chat to directly access customer service from a small group of companies that include Lowe’s, Home Depot, Newegg, 1-800-Flowers and Apple as well as Marriott, Hilton, Discover, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo.
“More and more, customers are showing that they prefer the convenience of messaging customer service versus making phone calls,” said Gihad Jawhar, Lowe’s VP Digital Development in a statement. “As a leader in service, Lowe’s is committed to meeting customer needs on their terms and through their communication preferences. Our support for Apple Business Chat makes messaging exponentially more powerful for our customers and our customer service agents.”
Business Chat enables users to communicate directly with businesses through a native iPhone and iPad function, with no need to download a separate application or set up an additional account. Users can access a business through Safari, Maps, Search or Siri, and start the chat by clicking on an icon or QR code to open an iMessage window.
In addition to powering chats — which can include images and links as well as text — Business Chat can be used to schedule appointments and process payments via Apple Pay. Companies will be working with Apple to create business-specific integrations, such as selecting a seat on an airline flight.
One key benefit of Business Chat is privacy protections, which are noteworthy in light of privacy and data-sharing concerns that have emerged with Facebook.
Multi-modal commerce has come into its own as consumers are deciding how they want to engage companies that they do business with. Voice, text, image, and touch are today’s evolving choices. Text has become a way of life for many people, but now voice is seeing rapid growth, thanks in large part to Amazon’s Alexa. Retailers need to decide what their customer engagement strategy will be, and they must be prepared to take inquiries, orders, and payments from consumers from a variety of different methods—not of their choosing—but of their customers.
Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group
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