Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guide to Apple Business Chat

By February 19, 2020 June 24th, 2020 No Comments
Ultimate Guide to Apple Business Chat

Did you know there is a special chat support channel for Apple users? It’s called Apple Business Chat. It allows iOS and macOS users to chat with your business over the Messages app. In this post, we’re going to discuss how it works and how to use Apple Business Chat for your company.

Rocketbots is not yet integrated with Apple Business Chat. If you would like us to add Apple Business Chat as a channel, please upvote this feature request.

What is Apple Business Chat?

Apple Business Chat Basics

Getting Started With Apple Business Chat

Applying For An Apple Business Chat Account

Further Reading

What is Apple Business Chat?

Apple Business Chat, known in shorthand as ABC, launched in 2018 as a part of Apple’s iOS 11.3 release. Apple Business Chat provides customers with a free, convenient way to communicate with participating businesses via the Messages app in iOS, macOS, watchOS, and iPadOS.

Companies can offer customer support, share rich links, manage appointment bookings, and process Apple Pay payments, all within an Apple Business Chat conversation.

Apple Business Chat, known in shorthand as ABC, launched in 2018 as a part of Apple’s iOS 11.3 release. Apple Business Chat provides customers with a free, convenient way to communicate with participating businesses via the Messages app in iOS, macOS, watchOS, and iPadOS. A user can start a conversation with a participating business through Apple Maps, Safari, Siri, and Spotlight Search. A business can also refer customers to contact them in Messages via their respective website, app or email. Business Chat messages have a grey background to distinguish them from iMessages, which are blue, and standard SMS messages which are green. Companies can offer customer support, share rich links, manage appointment bookings, and process Apple Pay payments, all within an Apple Business Chat conversation.
Apple Business Chat on iPhone

A user can start a conversation through Apple Maps, Safari, Siri, and Search. A business can also prompt customers to contact them in Messages via their respective website, app or email by adding a chat link or chat button. In the Messages app, business messages have a grey background to distinguish them from regular messages, which are blue, and standard SMS messages which are green.

Apple Business Chat Audience

Although convenient for some, Apple Business Chat is only available for users with Apple products. This is an issue because Android accounts for 74.13% of mobile devices. However, iOS users are valuable with higher average incomes, higher spending on apps, and more brand loyalty than Android users.

In 2018, Morgan Stanley reported 92% of surveyed iPhone owners as “somewhat or extremely likely” to upgrade their iOS device routinely and stick with the Apple brand when they do so. Companies wary that Apple Business Chat is limited to iOS users only should remember that this loyal customer group is likely to keep using iOS devices.

Once iOS users start a chat with a company in Messages, they present a more captive, consistent audience than their Android counterparts. There are more reasons than that to choose Apple Business Chat though.

Apple Pay on Apple Business Chat

In recent years messaging platforms have moved to offer in-app payment options. WeChat launched WeChat Pay in 2013, followed by another popular messaging app, LINE, with LINE Pay in late 2014.

One of the major benefits of Apple Pay in Apple Business Chat is convenience. Many iOS users have their credit card information saved in their device and can simply select the card they would like to pay with.

When a company sends a payment request, it will appear as a normal chat bubble and will include an Apple Pay logo. The customer can tap on the message to fill out an Apple Pay payment form that will open within the chat.
Apple Pay on Apple Business Chat

This means a customer service representative could help a shopper to figure out their purchase and prompt them to pay right in the conversation. Making it less likely that the shopper forgets to check out later. To set up Apple Pay a company will need:

  • an account with a payment processor or gateway
  • an Apple Merchant ID
  • a Payment Processing Certificate
  • a Merchant Identity Certificate

More information can be found in Apple’s official documentation. Now that you know the benefits of Apple Business Chat. Let’s get into the details.

Apple Business Chat Basics

The most important thing to know is only users can start a chat. There is no way for a company to send the first message A user can also end a conversation at any time by deleting the conversation or opting to stop receiving more messages.

Apple Business Chat was originally only available in North America but has since rolled out internationally. Customers can start a Business Chat from business listings in Maps, Search, Siri, and Safari. For users, Business Chat conversations happen in the Messages app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. Apple device users will need iOS 11.3 or later, and macOS 10.13.4 or later, to use Business Chat. Only users can start a chat with a business. They must send the first message before a company can start responding. If a user wants to end a conversation at any time they can delete the conversation opt to stop receiving any more messages. A company can no longer message a user once the user has deleted their Apple Business Chat conversation.
Apple Business Chat Opt-Out Message

Customers can start a Business Chat by searching for a business in Maps, Search, Siri, and Safari or by using a link provided by the business. Depending on where they search a user may see a Business Card or a Place Card.

Place Cards & Business Cards

Business Cards are not linked to any specific location, they show when a user searches for a business in Search or Safari. Business cards display the global contact details of a business, with a logo, phone number, email, website URL, and a Business Chat button.

If a user searches for a business in Search or Safari a company business card will appear, not linked to a specific location. When business cards appear in iOS search results they display the global contact details of a business, with a logo, phone number, email, website URL, and a Business Chat button. The business chat button allows users to tap the icon and begin a conversation in the Messages app. Once a chat with a customer has started, they can tap on the header of the conversation where a business' Messages header logo is displayed, and view the company's business card on a full page.
Apple Business Chat Business Cards

Using the Message button users can begin a conversation in the Messages app. This process looks fairly similar with Place Cards. The only difference is Place Cards refer to a specific location.

If a user searches for a business in Maps, a company place card shows up. It is linked to a specific location. In iOS search results, Place Cards also display a company’s name and address.

If a user searches for a business in Maps, a company place card shows up, linked to a specific location. When place cards appear in iOS search results they simply display a company's name and address. When a customer taps on a place card, the card expands to show a business's location in Maps, along with the address, hours of operation, phone number, and a Business Chat Message button. Once again, users can conveniently tap the Business Chat Message button to begin a conversation in the Messages app.
Apple Business Chat Place Cards

When a customer taps on a place card, the card expands to show a business’s location in Maps, along with the address, hours of operation, phone number, and a Message button. Here users can begin a conversation in the Messages app.

Now you know how your Apple Business listing will look, let’s check out how users can find these cards via Maps, Search, Siri or Safari.

Starting a Chat on Maps, Search, Siri & Safari

An Apple Business Chat can be started by finding a business in Apple Maps, search, Siri or Safari.

Searching on Apple Maps was easy. We selected the first result and tapped on the business listing. A full profile with directions, call-to-action buttons, and basic company information came up.

Apple Business Chat on Apple Maps

Not all companies that we searched for in Maps had the Apple Business Chat Message button available to click and begin a chat with, but with The Home Depot it worked perfectly.

Using iOS Search had mixed results. We struggled to find any company where the search result would let us jump directly into the chat. Perhaps this is because we are outside of the USA. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The images above show suggested results for The Home Depot when searched for on an iPhone device. The image on the left is what came up when we searched for The Home Depot before we had messaged with them on Apple Business Chat and before we had downloaded the company's app. The image on the right shows our search results after we had messaged with the company, providing a way to see the messages we had received from them, as well as a shortcut to the company's app after we had downloaded it.
Using iOS Search To Find A Company – Before & After Chatting

Interestingly, Search did help us to jump right back into the chat after we had a conversation already.

Using Siri also had mixed results. We tried several ways of asking the question, but we could never get the business chat message button to come up. The best we could do was get a link to Apple Maps.

Apple Business Chat with Siri

Searching in Safari had inconsistent results. We searched for several companies on Safari but finding a business result with the Business Chat Message bubble icon was rare.

Apple Business Chat on Safari

Two examples that Safari search did work for were Apple and The Home Depot. Users can tap the Business Chat Message button to begin a conversation in the Messages app without having to even hit Go on their Safari search. Talk about efficient.

Even though your Business and Place Cards are a great way for your customers to start a conversation with you. They will not always know that they can find you this way. So make sure that if they are browsing your website. They can start a conversation there too.

Adding a Chat Button to Your Website

Apple provides a way for any business to add a Business Chat Message button to their website. These buttons can also be used inside your app or even at the end of an email.

Apple Business Chat Message Button

The two examples above show how a business can place their Apple Business Chat Message button on their website, app or email, with an optional message above or below the Message Bubble icon.

Once you’ve got the chat started, Apple has several UI elements to make chatting easier.

The Chat UI

Aside for the amazing prompting for payments feature that we talked about earlier. Apple has placed a few UI elements in the chat for smoother customer experience.

One of these features is sending an app download link in the chat. I know where your saying, any chat allows you to send a link. However, the link Apple provides is special, because the user can install the app on their phone, without having to go to the app store and back.

The Chat UI also offers card templates. The Home Depot, for example, uses cards to let customers view product details. They even offer an in-store map to show where a product is located in their stores.

Beyond regular messages and rich links, on Apple Business Chat businesses can design additional experiences for their customers in a chat, using an iMessage app. You can use an iMessage app, or an iOS app containing an embedded iMessage app. The Home Depot, for example, use an iMessage app to let customers view product details. They even offer an in-store map to show where a product is located in their stores.
wApple Business Chat iMessage App Features

Apple Business Chat also offers pickers. One of the most difficult parts of a chat is getting a user to choose an option from a long list or choose a date.

For these use cases, Apple offers list pickers and date pickers. The list picker prompts a customer to select one or more items, such as products or locations. Items can include text and images, and can also be organized into sections.

These pickers offer quick options, which serve a similar efficient function to the lists of quick replies available on Facebook Messenger, optimizing an otherwise slower aspect of the conversation.

List Pickers (left) & Time Pickers (right)

A time picker prompts customers to choose an available time slot, such as to schedule a meeting. The time picker view can also show conflicts based on a users’ Apple Calendar app. After picking a time, customers can revisit their choice in the conversation view to add the event to Calendar.

When an event includes information such as an address, directions, or contact details, customers can view this information in the Calendar app. One really cool feature to note is that if users allows push notifications they can receive a Maps notification. This notification can alert them when to leave for an appointment, based on their current location and distance from the meeting location.

Getting Started With Apple Business Chat

There are differences in the process of getting an account on various messaging apps. To get a verified WeChat Official Account, you’ll need to go through approval, while setting up a Facebook page is easy.

For an Apple Business Chat business account, you’ll need to go through verification. But, unlike Google My Business, you can create an account even without a physical location. In addition, you’ll need to list your business hours and Apple will test if you have live customer service agents available at this time.

Applying For An Apple Business Chat Account

To apply for an Apple Business Chat account you’ll need to register, add your brand info & collateral and verify a connection with an MSP.

1 Register an account by:

  • selecting an account type
  • providing contact information
Register For An Account To register a new Business Chat account, select an account applicant and account type. It is required to provide contact information for a technical contact. Providing contact information for a sponsored executive is optional. Businesses can register any location information and the number of locations they have. However, unlike when registering a business with Google My Business a company does not need to provide or declare an address if they do not have one.
Registering A Business Chat Account

2 Fill in your brand info. A brand information card includes:

  • a company’s chosen brand name
  • messaging response time
  • phone number
  • website
Fill In A Brand Information Card A brand information card should include a company's chosen brand name. If an organization has multiple brands, a separate Business Chat account must be created for each brand. Companies will also need to provide their messaging response time, phone number, and website for each brand in the card details section. In order to be eligible for an account, companies must be able to provide access to a human customer service agent during regular business hours. A company will need to declare their live agent response hours and register the time zone that their live support agents are located in.
Brand Information Card

3 Create your Brand Identity. It is time to upload a logo, you’ll be asked for:

  • a square logo that appears on companies’ business profiles for Apple Business Chat
  • a Messages header logo, that will appear in the Messages app across the top of any conversation.
After some basic company information has been filled out, it is time to upload a logo. There are two logos to upload. One is a square logo that appears on companies' business profiles for Apple Business Chat, and the second is a Messages header logo, that will appear in the Messages app across the top of any conversation. Companies can choose a background and button hex-color, as well as review how each logo appears in both light and dark mode. Because the new iOS dark mode uses a darker color palette, some companies may choose to adjust their logo and picker icons to remain clearly visible in both modes.
Business Profile Logo (left) & Messages Header Logo (right)

Companies can choose a background and button hex-color, as well as review how each logo appears in both light and dark mode.

4 Verify an MSP connection. The last step in setting up an Apple Business Chat account is verifying a messaging platform configuration connection. A Messaging Service Platform (MSP) is required to connect your business to the Business Chat service.

There is an option to select a messaging platform from an Apple-approved drop-down list, use your own internal messaging platform, or a URL supplied by your Messaging Service Platform.

The last step in setting up an Apple Business Chat account is verifying a messaging platform configuration connection. A Messaging Service Platform (MSP) is required to connect your business to the Business Chat service. There is an option to select a messaging platform from an Apple-approved drop-down list, use your own internal messaging platform, or a URL supplied by your Messaging Service Platform. All participating messaging service providers must be approved by Apple. MSPs play a crucial role in the messaging chain. They provide the software and services necessary to allow a businesses' live agents to respond from their consoles to customer messages sent from the Messages app.
Apple Business Chat Messaging Chain

As always with Apple, there is one additional step where Apple tests things out to ensure a great customer experience. The account will need to be verified.

Getting Verified on Apple Business Chat

Once you have everything set up you’ll need to send the Apple Business Chat team a message. They will then conduct a User Experience Review where they will act exactly like regular customers and test out your support system.

Once this process is complete, users will be able to see the Business Chat Message button in Business Cards or Place Cards and begin using the Business Chat buttons on your website.

Further Reading

You’ve done it! You’ve finished this introductory guide to Apple Business Chat. If you’re interested in further reading we recommend the following articles on popular messaging platforms for business:

Ultimate Guide to Apple Business Chat
Jacky

Jacky

Jacky is a Content Writer at Respond.io. Her previous roles include positions at Standard Chartered, PARKLU, and ThirtyThree.

56 Shares
Share via
Copy link