Apple launched Business Chat for iMessage today in developer preview, company executives said onstage today at WWDC, the company’s annual developer conference. Message icons will appear alongside the names of businesses in Siri, Spotlight searches, and Maps for quick chat with online or offline businesses. News of the launch of Business Chat was first made available earlier this week.
Using the iMessage App Framework, businesses can be used to integrate iMessage apps into a businesses Business Chat experience to deliver services.
Business Chat is an immediate competitor with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, and other messaging apps who want to connect businesses with customers.
Business Chat will come to iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches in iOS 11 or later.
In addition to Business Chat, this week Apple launched HomePod, its answer to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. A range of updates are also on the way for Siri, including additional personalization in native iOS apps and the ability to review your personal finances like checking, debit, or credit card accounts with just your voice.
Customers must send the first message to start a conversation but once a conversation begins, a business can schedule appointments, send notifications, make sales, and a range of other business services.
With Business Chat, predictive text, that grey space above the keyboard where suggestions are served up, will surface personal information to share with businesses like phone number or email address.
Time Picker feature in Business Chat allows customers to pick appointment times with a business. List Picker lets you list things like items for sale. Apple Pay can be used for customers to share payment, shipping, and contact information.
A Hide Alerts option will be available to customers to silence notifications from a business. Delete a conversation and a business can no longer reach that customer.
To use Business Chat, a business must work with a customer service platform like LivePerson, Nuance, Genesys, or Salesforce.