Apple is getting even chattier.
The tech giant expanded its business chat feature — which helps consumers connect directly with brand representatives — bringing on board 30 partners and expanding its scope to Europe, Asia and Australia.
Burberry, La Redoute, Matchesfashion.com and Men’s Wearhouse are among the latest brands to plug into the iMessage customer service feature.
While offering customer service through chat programs is nothing new to retail, at least for web sites and third-party apps like Facebook’s Messenger, the momentum behind the Apple-developed tool is telling. Prior to the announcement, Business Chat counted 15 brands in its mix. Now the total exceeds 45 across the U.S. and other regions, with several parties exploring what types of experiences the tool can enable.
Unlike outside apps, Apple Business Chat requires no separate download of third-party programs for consumers. And unlike regular SMS texting, it hides the individual’s phone number, unless they opt in — which is no small matter, given heightened data security concerns.
For Burberry, which is rolling out support for Apple Business Chat globally, the experience will offer the same customer service powers that modern shoppers have come to expect — including the ability to check stock availability in nearby locations or help with placing orders. But it also gives the public an easy way to inquire about sizes and fit, or request information about special events, such as fashion shows.
Notably, Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, was once chief executive officer of Burberry. The intimate connection between the tech company and fashion brand could make the latter’s support and development a case study in how to optimize Apple’s tools.
Another comes from Matchesfashion.com, which sees Business Chat as “a powerful and engaging connection with our customers,” according to a statement from Ulric Jerome, ceo of Matchesfashion.com.
The London-based global e-commerce company is using Apple Business Chat to provide styling suggestions to shoppers. The chat connects a MyStylist representative to patrons who want to receive fashion advice, place orders or need to contact customer care for delivery and return information. Customers can also book a “bespoke private shopping appointment” at the brand’s new experiential store in Mayfair.
“The majority of our customers prefer to shop on [Apple’s] iOS, and we always want to exceed their expectations when they experience Matchesfashion.com,” Jerome added. “Apple Business Chat makes communicating with us as easy as messaging a friend, creating an even more personal service.”
Another intriguing example comes from outside the apparel world: West Elm plans to bring its Design Crew Expert service to Apple Business Chat, in a move that would represent its first foray into a digital platform. People will be able to request interior design advice on any room in their home by texting or submitting photos to the Crew.
It’s an interesting use case that could also work for style advice, whether it’s what shoes go with a particular outfit or examples on how to style a given blouse.
Apple Business Chat’s expansion — which also covers regions across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — comes on the heels of its just-revealed partnership with Salesforce.
Salesforce, another Bay Area-based technology giant, focuses on customer relationship management software, and its overt push into artificial intelligence seemingly has deeper hooks into the iOS ecosystem. In essence, it means Salesforce-developed iOS retail bots could handle a large volume of inquiries, while punting more complex or unique requests to human staffers standing by on Business Chat.
At this point, the only other tech giant that could offer something similar would be Google, which has made its own efforts in enterprise messaging apparent. Altogether, it looks like a major push among the tech giants to beef up their retail services across their devices.