- Luxury clothing brand Burberry is working with Apple on an invitation-only messaging service that lets store employees connect directly with key customers. "R Message" lets shoppers book in-store appointments, receive personalized product advice and make direct purchases, Vogue Business reported.
- Burberry is testing the messaging app at its flagship store in Manchester, England, before a global rollout to its 431 global locations and 6,000 store associates. The app is integrated with Burberry's internal app, R World, that gives employees access to real-time inventory data and company news.
- The clothing brand developed the chat-based service to connect with mobile-first customers who are often as informed as store associates about its products, Mark Morris, Burberry's VP of digital commerce, told Vogue Business. To boost regular usage of the app among employees, the company added a newsfeed feature with company updates, images from ad campaigns and press mentions.
Burberry's "R Message" capability aims to support a more direct connection between store employees and their most important clientele as some consumers prefer to converse with businesses by text. Unlike chatbots, whose conversational range is currently limited, live store associates can provide a more seamless experience for shoppers with communications that flow from mobile chats to face-to-face conversations in stores. Those interactions give Burberry a chance to urge its best customers to visit stores more frequently, upsell additional merchandise and get direct feedback.
Apple has emphasized a more human touch with its Business Chat platform that allows people to protect their private information while chatting with businesses. While the system is capable of creating automated responses for simple requests, it mostly supports conversations with live agents, per its website. 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.
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. 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.