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Apple Business Chat Rolls Out With 1-800-Flowers, Home Depot, Hilton, And Others

"At 1-800-Flowers.com, we are always looking for innovative ways to enhance the shopping experience, so we are very excited to support Apple Business Chat, which provides a powerful new avenue for connecting with our customers wherever and whenever they choose," a rep for the brand says.

Apple Business Chat is emerging from beta with the latest iOS 11 update as brands rapidly seek to employ messenger apps and chatbot to communicate and transact more quickly and directly with consumers.

Business Chat was previewed at last June’s WWDC event introducing iOS 11 and is clearly designed to match Facebook Messenger’s direct merchant/consumer connections. Launch partners on the full release include Discover Card, Hilton, Lowe’s The Home Depot, Marriott, Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, 1-800-Flowers, and online electronics retailer Newegg.

To start an Apple Business Chat, consumers can open Apple Maps, Safari, or Search, then tap their iPhone or iPad Messages icon to send a text. Some businesses also let users start a conversation directly from their own app or website.

Aware of the new wave of concern about privacy and shared data, Apple assures users that only a consumer can initiate a Business Chat. And while chatbots may be part of some businesses responses, Apple emphasizes that “most often, your conversations will be with a live agent.”

Users can also schedule appointments and make purchases directly using Apple Pay. It’s not clear if there is a particular Siri skill for Business Chat, but since users can already use Siri to search for something or send a text, it’s reasonable to assume that owners of Apple’s HomePod, it’s smart speaker answer to Google Home and Amazon Echo, can use that device as well.

For brands like 1-800-Flowers, Apple Business Chat represents a complement to its current use of chatbots, Facebook Messenger, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant to serve its customers. In a statement, a 1-800-Flowers spokesperson said the brand “is always looking for new ways to engage” with consumers through the latest technologies.

“At 1-800-Flowers.com, we are always looking for innovative ways to enhance the shopping experience, so we are very excited to support Apple Business Chat, which provides a powerful new avenue for connecting with our customers wherever and whenever they choose,” the brand’s rep said. “1-800-Flowers.com provides a best-in-class experience on iPhone and iPad, and now customers can instantly chat with a gift concierge about a product or service, or ask any other questions they might have. Our new experience takes advantage of Apple Pay, making it easy and convenient for shoppers to make a purchase using Messages.”

In a presentation at the NRF Big Show in January, Apple VP Jennifer Bailey positioned Business Chat as a way to amplify and enhance omnichannel engagement. It’s also a way for brands — and Apple, naturally — to capitalize on the growth of mobile commerce.

“Already, mobile represents 25 percent of all e-commerce in the U.S,” Bailey said. “It’s growing four times faster than desktop e-commerce, and 10 times faster than physical retail.With these growth rates, mobile spend is expected to be the largest e-commerce channel in 2021 in the US.

“While you may we make think some of these forecasts are overly optimistic, we already see, like markets in China, that over 80 percent of e-commerce is mobile,” Bailey continued. “With our 1 billion active iPhones in our global market, we see mobile devices as the predominant way we will digitally engage with customers.”

Apple Business Chat in action

Apple Apps Versus Google’s Physical Web

In discussing the growth of mobile and Apple’s place in it, Bailey also took what could be seen as a subtle swipe at Google’s attempts to build out the physical web and extend mobile commerce and marketing beyond the walled garden of apps, which is where Apple’s revenue is increasingly derived.

“Mobile is truly transforming how we live our lives, and apps are at the center of this change,” Bailey said. “Of the time spent on mobile devices, 87 percent is spent within apps.”

Anticipating doubts about those figures when it comes to shopping, Bailey disputed that most of e-commerce traffic is on the web, not in apps.

“We’re seeing is the same pattern as when internet shopping began,” she said. “The internet and personal computing have had a huge influence on how we all shop, and now we’re seeing the same thing with apps. The impact of mobile commerce is even more rapid, and more profound in changing how we shop, and how we, as retailers need to engage with our customers.

“Why do customers prefer apps? The reason is clear,” Bailey said. “With iOS apps, we can deliver the best possible experience,” Bailey said. “Apps enable you to leverage the power of integrated hardware, software, and services by using capabilities like the camera, location services, identity, and augmented reality. Many of you are already innovating with apps, and making them the centerpiece of your customer experiences.”

 

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.