It won’t take you long to realize something: we’re obsessed with the power of conversations in ecommerce, from early marketing down to the final steps of the checkout process.
Sometimes it’s all about conversational landing pages.
Other times, we help you optimize the entire customer journey on social media.
It all comes down to scaling your sales and making the most out of every customer touchpoint for your online store, and in this guide, we tackle a much more untapped channel: Apple Business Chat.
Apple Business Chat lets companies connect with their customers through Apple’s Messages app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. With it, you can easily answer questions, provide support, and enhance the customer experience.
Let’s go through why Business Chat by Apple is a channel for you to tap into, how to get started, and how it became important in the first place!
How (Facebook) Messenger set the groundwork for Apple’s chat
Conversations were always the driver of sales; face-to-face and phone sales have been the center of sales since the dawn of time.
With the internet era and, subsequently, the ecommerce era, this evolved to email and then live website chat.
But it was Facebook Messenger that enabled online stores to sell to anyone, anywhere, at any moment—at scale.
The numbers behind Messenger are somewhat mind-boggling as it’s hard to imagine a platform with such reach and impact. Impact that extends from its impressions and reach through to click-throughs and conversion rates.
In 2018, it was the second most-downloaded app of all time, ironically only losing to the Facebook app itself.
According to Statista, 79% of adults in the United States have never used Facebook Messenger Payments. At the same time, 6% of people use it multiple times a day, and 5% use it weekly, which means that the role of messaging in online shopping is shifting and evolving.
Finally, the data recently revealed at Facebook’s F8 event reveals that there are 20 billion (!) messages sent between people and businesses every month.
People are craving the immediacy in their conversations with companies they’re looking to buy from. And with an even bigger platform and reach, Apple Business Chat has the potential to provide it.
Apple Business Chat: overview and perspectives
In simple terms, Apple Business Chat (which I’ll refer to as Business Chat going forward) is a way for online stores (and other companies) to talk to their customers.
It works on Apple devices, which means it extends to the well-known Apple apps and functionalities. In other words, customers can find you and start conversations with you from places like Safari, Apple Maps, Search, and Siri.
Remember the earlier-mentioned 20 billion monthly conversations on Messenger? Back in 2014, Tim Cook said that Apple handles 40 billion iMessage notifications per day.
This means that Apple users are extremely reliant on Apple’s native messages and the ecosystem they come within—and thanks to Business Chat, you can become part of it.
The business perspective of Business Chat
The foundation of the entire approach to Business Chat is that you can use it to serve your customers in any way you need to, all inside of the same world.
Removing friction is arguably the strongest selling point of conversational commerce, and Apple clearly knows that!
This is why, as a business, you can use the full capabilities of the iMessage framework to enable your customers to get your support, make purchases, schedule appointments, and even make payments with Apple Pay.
You can enable conversation entry points at your website, your app, emails you send, and many other touchpoints.
The customer perspective of Business Chat
When presenting it to their consumers, Apple dubs their Business Chat as “a whole new way to talk to companies”:
In other words, they want their users to see the benefits of texting businesses—you!—just like they would their friends and family.
They go on to emphasize the ease of starting new conversations, controlling what they share and the safety of their personal information, and talking to a real person if needed.
Apple devices on iOS 11.3 or macOS 10.13.4 (and all that follow) support Business Chat. Since more than 90% of Apple’s users are on iOS 11 or higher, it means that Business Chat is available to almost everyone.
The features and advantages of Apple Business Chat
Among the most prominent features of Business Chat are:
- Connection with customers across iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch
- One-on-one conversations that customers can engage with on their own time, instantly or days later
- Easy checkout and payment with Apple Pay
- Customer authentication for providing shipping and contact information quickly
- Personalization for custom experiences
- Integration with your existing customer service platform
Here’s how you can apply these to your online store and reap the immediate benefits of Business Chat.
Sell to customers that are ready to buy right now
You know that dreadful feeling when you ask some questions about a product, and then you’re sent elsewhere to buy it, like going to the website or calling a sales rep?
Apple’s chat bypasses that and lets your customers buy there and then, as soon as you’ve identified their purchase intent level at “I want it now!”
You can get their decisions on size, color, shipping address, and payment preference—all in the matter of minutes (potentially seconds?), honoring their readiness to purchase right away.
Get sales from extraordinary customer support
Another strong signal that the customer trusts you comes from thoroughly answered customer service questions.
As you can see from this Overstock example, when you’ve completed a support request, it pays off to ask for feedback and gauge customer happiness after the interaction.
If the chat exceeded customer’s expectations, you may benefit from asking them if they wanted to hear more about relevant products and offers based on what they’ve already bought. Because it’s closely related to what they already own and like, they’re likely to say yes!
This isn’t to say that you should turn every customer issue into a sale all the time. There’s a risk of annoying your customers, especially if they experience it multiple times from you.
Instead, use your best judgment and common sense to identify the best opportunities after you’ve gone the extra mile for your customer.
Personalize every future interaction
The best conversations happen when you work with the right information, not just in sales, but in life in general.
That’s why features like asking a multiple-choice question are invaluable to an online store that offers various product categories and filters:
With a piece of data like the one above, Freshly can make sure to never offer you a steak if you’re vegan and to avoid low-calorie suggestions if you’re looking to build muscle.
While personalization is anything but new in ecommerce, it’s still often difficult to implement. With a feature like this, you can shape all future interactions and truly customize every message you send.
Be helpful above all
Finally, remember that giving your customers confidence by providing answers right when they need them is the best thing you can do for long-term, sustainable growth of your store:
Whether it’s finding the right product within their budget, getting to the store on time, or clearing up any confusion about an offer you’ve given them—being helpful never goes out of style.
Business Chat makes this possible by making it possible for them to reach out on their own terms, instead of waiting on hold when calling you.
Business Chat best practices (and some limitations)
Let’s dive into Apple’s recommendations on making the most out of their platforms, as well as some potentially limiting policies to keep in mind.
Enhance customer experience with iMessage apps
Just like with any other channel, you’ll see the best results with Business Chat if you know the main reasons your customers contact you.
This way, you can create the best workflows for all use cases.
For example, you can use your insights to improve the process of finding the best products or completing the purchase—all with Apple’s native apps and features, which removes the friction of jumping between multiple platforms.
Segment your customers and messages for extra efficiency
Thanks to the integration with your customer service platform, you can populate Intent Id and Group ID fields to create rules that define where each message gets routed.
If you have people that manage chats specific to first-time sales, after-purchase care, customer complaints… You can ensure that the right messages go to the right people from the moment they’re sent.
End customer conversations by asking if you can be of further help
One of the points that Apple emphasizes is offering further assistance after you’ve helped a customer.
In other words, even if this was a straightforward sale that the customer contacted you for, it pays off to go the extra mile and delight the customer.
This can pay off long-term in the form of returning customers and recurring purchases—remember that loyal customers spend more, and more often!
Make live chat available during business hours
Here’s the kicker, and arguably the main limitation of the Business Chat option when it comes to conversational commerce:
You must provide access to a live agent during your regular business hours. A bot-only solution isn’t accepted.
If you were looking to add Apple’s chat option to your online store as a scalable option to increase your sales, this is why you can’t (more on that later).
The positive side of it is that if you do have customer support agents that could own this new channel, this is a great channel to expand to.
But if you’re looking to create more automated checkouts and conversational flows, a solution like Jumper might be a much better fit.
Offering automated checkouts in a conversational environment comes with two benefits:
- You won’t have to spend any extra time in your day to sell more than you already do
- Your customers will get immediate responses and purchase confirmation instead of waiting for you to be online, meaning they can shop 24/7
For obvious reasons, Apple’s chat relies on live agents to provide this, so make sure to define the sales goals and available resources (like staff and software) you need, and already have, to reach those goals.
How to get started with Apple Business Chat
To get Business Chat for your online store, start by creating a business account for the Messages app on Apple Business Register.
To connect your business to the Business Chat service, you’ll also need to pick from a list of approved Customer Service Platforms during your registration, which include the following services:
The role of a Customer Service Platform (CSP) is to provide the software and services necessary for your agents to respond from their consoles to customer messages sent from the Messages app on Apple devices:
For the entire process, make sure to reference Apple’s official documentation:
- Getting Started with Business Chat (PDF)
- Onboarding Business Chat Accounts (PDF)
- Business Chat Sandbox
- Business Chat Features (PDF)
Does your store qualify for Business Chat?
According to Apple, to qualify for a Business Chat account (BCA) you must:
- Have an asynchronous messaging platform
- Have available live agents during business hours
- Use one of the Customer Service Platform providers approved by Apple
- Willing and capable to offer comparable service to your customers over Business Chat as you currently do over your phone support line
In other words, adding Business Chat to your toolbox can bring many benefits to your store, but you must be willing to invest time and effort into it.
Otherwise, it will end up a waste of resources, without any results to justify it.
Choose the right path for your online store
If we jump back to our initial point of this guide, it’s all about the impact conversations can have in the success of your store, your customer relationships, your long-term goals.
With Apple Business chat, you can take your customer conversations to the next level with real-time interactions, while also improving customer’s flow between these conversations and your store.
If you’re looking to take your store’s current success to the next level and automate sales conversations and checkouts with premade templates and conversational triggers, Jumper is your solution.
Want to try it out? You can do so with Jumper’s free trial. You’ll be selling with automated sequences in no time!
P.S – If you’re set on including Apple Business Chat into your current Jumper or social media marketing, watch this space. We’re working on something which could help you link all of these disparate channels together in a single dashboard.