Giant ecommerce platform Shopify has introduced Apple Business Chat support for use across its worldwide network of 800,000 online merchants, meaning even small firms can now offer this kind of customer interaction. I contacted Michael Perry, director of product at Shopify, to find out more.
How Shopify is deploying Apple Business Chat
Shopify offers retailers its own app called Shopify Ping. Merchants use this to handle customer communications and to build automated marketing workflows.
Starting today, Shopify’s new Apple Business Chat integration means merchants will be able to enable the service, and Apple’s familiar blue Business Chat button will appear on every page on their store.
That’s great because while larger retailers have been in position to support the service, smaller firms are at a technology disadvantage in terms of the time it takes to deploy such solutions.
Shopify lets you set this up in a few clicks.
Once it is set up, customers can make contact, request product information and support, and pay using Apple Pay — all within the Messages conversation.
“We are bringing all 800,000 of our merchants one step closer to their customers, and giving them the advantage they need to build their business the way entrepreneurs have for thousands of years: through conversations,” Perry explained.
Why does this matter?
Survey after survey tells us that communication is everything in modern retail.
Customers are smarter and better informed than before. As such, they are more than capable of checking prices, finding alternatives, and seeking connections when they shop.
“We know customers who engage in a conversation with a brand are nearly three times as likely to complete a purchase,” Perry told me.
“That’s why we want to make it possible for our merchants to connect with their customers seamlessly during the entire purchasing journey,” he said, stressing that empowering customers to use a familiar tool (Messages) makes a big difference.
It’s important to understand the importance:
A recent JD Power survey found that 42% of customers prefer live chat above phone calls or email to make contact with companies – but just one out of 10 firms offer such services online.
“The convergence of physical and digital in retail is driving customers’ desire [for] a convenient, personalized experience,” Rodney Bryant, IBM Global Business Services Retail Industry Lead for the Apple Partnership Team, told me in 2017.
How do merchants enable the service?
Merchants that need to enable the service can do so “in a few clicks” from inside Shopify’s Ping app, Perry said.
Once enabled, customers can make contact from all Apple’s primary platforms: iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod touch, and Apple Watch.
How does this integration benefit consumers?
Digital is everywhere, but earlier models of ecommerce are making way for new approaches that combine hyper-personalization, augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and digital communications tools to make the impersonal online shopping process more personal — more like shops used to be, in fact.
“Shopping has traditionally been a very personal experience where customers engage with sales representatives in a mall or at a retail store,” Perry said.
“With this latest feature, we feel strongly that bringing personal touch between a brand and a consumer can go a long way in establishing brand loyalty and trust.
“For direct to consumer brands, it’s more important than ever before to be able to make build that connection with their customers. For customers, this provides a more personal touch when it comes to buying something online,” he said.
What does this mean?
Shopify wasn’t able to share a breakdown around what platforms its merchants use, but the fact it chose to support Apple Business Chat within its app for its retailers speaks volumes concerning the iPhone maker’s place at the heart of modern retail.
Digital transformation continues across every industry, but retail appears at the bleeding edge of these changes.
“We are seeing industry-wide adoption of iOS at thousands of retailers, from neighborhood boutiques to many of the best-known retailers in the world,” said Apple CFO Luca Maestri in 2018.
You’ll find iOS devices in use in-store, Apple Pay support is proliferating (most recently in beautiful Portugal), and Apple Business Chat is used by some of the biggest U.S. retailers, including Burberry, West Elm and Four Seasons.
With IKEA in the vanguard, AR link-ups are also emerging – Walmart added an AR scanning tool to its app last year.
And Apple seems to be at the heart of much of this change.