Apple Business Chat expands in chase for B2C text comms segment

Apple is moving into business to consumer chat portals – but Business Chat remains in beta.
10 October 2018

Apple expands its (still-in-beta) Business Chat iMessage platform. Source: Shutterstock

Apple has expanded its emerging business messaging platform, Apple Business Chat, joining the ranks of competitors like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Business, and Google My Business. Apple has announced it now has more business partners involved in the platform, as well as support in additional countries.

The announcement last week included companies like Burberry, West Elm, and Vodafone Germany among various companies in the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Europe, and Australia.

Business Chat lets businesses communicate with their customers over Apple’s proprietary iMessage platform. The scheme, which remains in beta, allows customers to pay for goods and services via ApplePay. Additionally, a company can push media such as photos, videos, or web links to supply further information.

Companies wishing to offer Apple Business Chat simply give the option as part of their contact information, with end-users just having to tap the appropriate icon to connect via the iMessage app.

Tap the Messages icon to begin Apple Business Chat via iMessage. Source: Apple

Apple’s history with enterprise IT has never been particularly conventional. Its founder Steve Jobs famously preferred the consumer market to the business market, stating “[…] we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves […] they go yes or no, and if enough of them say yes we get to come to work tomorrow. That’s how it works.”

The Cupertino giant is not known for its products being specifically aimed at enterprise customers, although features such as Exchange integration (launched alongside the iPhone 4), and endpoint management systems designed to monitor and control enterprise rollout of iPhones and iPads have certainly helped.

Rather, since the company’s dalliance with hardware such as Xserve and Xserve RAID, product lines which were discontinued in 2004, Apple has preferred for its consumer users to change enterprise IT policy from within.

The bring your device (BYOD) trend did not comprise, of course, merely of Apple devices, but the consumerization of technology was certainly spearheaded by Apple with the original iPhone and iPad.

Apple’s recent announcement of a strategic partnership with Salesforce two weeks ago is broadly in line with Apple’s gradual move back into the enterprise. Salesforce’s president Bret Taylor has described how Apple Business Chat will integrate with his company’s service bots, which were introduced last year for companies to build their own bespoke automated response systems.

As companies attempt to create a 360° customer view, the onus is on the business to be able to interact in their customers’ chosen manner; many simply prefer chat-based interaction (at least to start with) than waiting to be connected to a human operator.

In the B2C text arena, Facebook has the definite advantage over its rivals in terms of ubiquity, with its Messenger in everyday use by around 1.2 billion users, many of whom already use the app to talk to companies. Apple’s advantage is that the iMessage app comes bundled with all its mobile devices, and does not require a separate download and account.

Apple’s business partners either already using or in the process of deploying Business Chat include the Four Seasons, Hilton & Marriott hotel chains, telecoms companies T-Mobile & Vodafone, Wells Fargo & BuddyBank, and power company Npower, amongst others.