What is Business Chat in Messages in iOS 11?

Not every new feature in iOS 11 was announced during the WWDC Keynote, and that includes the new Messages feature, Business Chat. Apple wants to provide businesses with the opportunity to talk with their customers directly using iMessage, opening up a new world of possibilities for customer relations.

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas. While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

What is business chat exactly?

Apple's developer site describes Business Chat in the following way:

"Business Chat is a powerful new way for your customers to get answers to their questions, learn about and purchase your products, and engage with your existing support channels. Integrated into Messages and discoverable through Maps, Siri, Search, as well as your own app and website, Business Chat helps you build persistent, long-lasting relationships with your customers."

Imagine going to your favorite retailer's website on your iPhone and seeing a little message bubble icon, when you tap on it; you'll instantly be launched into a live chat with a customer support representative. Or, let's say you're looking for the nearest electronics store in the Maps app because you want to buy a Nintendo Switch, but you need to confirm they have it in stock. If that store has Business Chat set up, instead of calling them to ask if they have any consoles left, you could simply message them!

This kind of direct customer interactions would let businesses take care of complaints, answer questions about products or service they provide, or perhaps even book appointments with in-store specialists. It all depends on how businesses choose to integrate Business Chat into their existing platforms.

Will this new feature take off?

Well, that's hard to say, but a big obstacle for Business Chat will be the exclusivity of Apple's ecosystem. With lots of businesses already using Twitter and Facebook as platforms to directly message consumers — which are available on more devices than just iOS — businesses may decide it's not worth it.

On the other hand, Business Chat could bring a personal relationship to consumers by creating one-on-one relationships. If you could chat directly with the owner of that new bar downtown to find out what the best craft beer is, it might make you feel more connected to it, and subsequently patronize it more often than another bar that you haven't had that connection with.

Plus, you can't discount the power of the older generation. For example, my father recently got his first iPhone and has been loving it. He's not on Facebook or Twitter, but he does have iMessage and knows how to use it. I could very easily see my father using Business Chat as a way to communicate with businesses if they offered it.

What do you think of Business Chat?

Will this take off? Do you like the idea? Let us know in the comments below!

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.