Apple is working on a way to bring businesses to the iMessage platform, in order to answer customer questions, offer customer service and even perform transactions. Though not announced at WWDC, a new page on Apple’s Developer site briefly details this new service, dubbed “Business Chat,” which will be able to operate across platforms, including iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
Further details about how Business Chat are not yet known – according to Apple’s website, the service will be introduced on Friday, June 9th, at a WWDC session.
Business Chat sounds a lot like Apple’s attempt to move into a space where social networks like Facebook and Twitter today dominate. Twitter has recently doubled down on customer service, with a variety of new tools like welcome messages, quick replies, custom profiles, location sharing, chatbots, and more.
Meanwhile, Facebook, which now has 1.2 billion monthly users, has made doing business on Messenger a part of what it means to operate a Facebook Page. It also has support for things like business usernames on Messenger, automatic greetings, short and memorable links for promoting a business’s Messenger presence, chatbots, transactions, and more.
Though more details are still forthcoming, there are things we can learn now about Business Chat from the short description on the Apple Developer website. For starters, Business Chat will be deeply integrated into the iOS operating system and within Apple’s own native apps. The idea is that when a consumer is looking up business information, instead of simply being presented with a phone number to call as on Google, they’ll instead have the option to start a chat session using iMessage.
Apple says customers will be able to find businesses and then start conversations from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri. In addition, Apple touts that Business Chat will be integrated with other services, including Apple Pay for transactions, and Calendar. It also notes that businesses can bring their own iMessage app into the conversation.
The image on the website shows a Business Chat session in action between an Apple support representative and a customer inquiring about iPad recommendations (naturally). The session looks just like any other iMessage chat conversation, except the banner at the top of the screen is a dark gray and the chats are in shades of gray, instead of blue and gray text bubbles.
Also worth noting is that the business in question in the image (Apple), seems to have what looks like a Verified checkmark next to its name. The Verified badge is something that Twitter popularized, but is also available on other social platforms like Facebook and Instagram where it’s used to indicate that the profile in question is the official one representing the brand or public figure, as the case may be.
Presumably, Business Chat would roll out to the public when iOS 11 ships this fall.