- Apple this week expanded its Business Chat service to work with online stores that rely on Shopify for their e-commerce technology, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer. Business Chat lets Apple users connect to businesses through its Messages app that comes preinstalled on millions of iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.
- Hodinkee Shop and State Bicycle are among the first merchants to use Apple Business Chat on their Shopify-based stores. The company is offering Business Chat for no extra charge to the more than 800,000 merchants that use its platform to run their online shops.
- Merchants can manage and respond to Business Chat messages through Shopify Ping, a mobile app the company introduced last year to handle customer conversations. Shopify will show an iOS Messages button on every page of Shopify stores that register for the service, letting customers click to engage in conversations with merchants.
By integrating Apple's Business Chat into its e-commerce platform, Shopify aims to open up a growing direct communication channel between marketers and their customers. Whether consumers typically prefer to call a business or exchange text messages is still open to debate. Apple likely will help to expand the growth of messaging with businesses, given its strong history of making technology accessible to everyday consumers and its massive user base that includes more than 900 million iPhones in operation.
Surveys show mixed attitudes toward calling or texting businesses, indicating that messaging is in the early stages of consumer adoption. Fifty-seven percent of consumers said they prefer phone calls over other forms of electronic communications when contacting local businesses, per a survey by phone technology provider Ooma and Sapio Research. Their research found that 35% of Generation Zers favor phone calls because they're faster and more efficient, and phone calls are the preferred way to contact businesses such as healthcare providers, hair and beauty salons, car mechanics and legal and tax services. However, 56% of consumers and 53% of small-business owners want to text with each other more often, per a separate survey by cloud software platform Zipwhip.
By working with Shopify, Apple likely will expand the corporate user base for its Business Chat service beyond a group of big-name brands. Companies including 1-800-Flowers, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott and Wells Fargo were among the brands to first offer Business Chat, which arrived in 2018 with the rollout of Apple's iOS 11.3 software update. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts lets customers chat with its employees through a variety of messaging channels, including Business Chat.
The partnership with Apple comes as Shopify has seen its stock fall as investors have become wary about paying for the platform's rapid growth. Previously, Shopify rolled out software tools to help brands and merchants create augmented reality (AR) images of products for their online stores.