Apple Business Chat Expands to Dish Network, Philadelphia Phillies, American Express, and Others

Apple Business Chat, which is customer service through iMessage, is expanding to a total of 10 new partners and technology platforms.


Apple on Friday announced that satellite TV provider DISH, concessions operator Aramark, hotel chain Four Seasons, food and gift producer Harry & David, and credit card company American Express are adopting the service.

Here's the rundown from Apple:
  • Aramark is launching a 10-game pilot of "Brew2You" at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. By scanning a QR code on their seat back, fans in three sections can use Business Chat to order beer or water and have it delivered to their seat.
  • DISH Network is deploying Business Chat to customers nationwide, to allow them to contact a live agent to ask questions, make account changes, and schedule an appointment. They can also use their credit card on file to order a pay-per-view movie or sporting event.
  • Four Seasons will enable guests to search for any Four Seasons property and instantly engage Four Seasons Chat, a multi-lingual chat service, helping guests to engage with Four Seasons teams anywhere, at any time, for any need.
  • Harry & David customers can chat with a gift concierge about a product or service, or ask any other questions they might have.
  • American Express is kicking off a pilot program for card members to get account information such as their balance, payment due dates, points balance, as well as ask for a card replacement, dispute a charge, get information about their card benefits, and more.
Apple also announced five new technology platforms supporting Business Chat, including Cisco, eGain, Kipsu, Lithium, and Quiq, that businesses can integrate with to handle routing of inbound communications and so forth.

Apple Business Chat also powered the official concierge service for Cannes Lions in June, with LivePerson.

Apple Business Chat launched in iOS 11.3 in March, enabling iPhone and iPad users to ask for information, schedule appointments, make purchases, and complete other customer service tasks directly in the Messages app.


Other companies using Business Chat include Apple itself, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott, Newegg, T-Mobile, Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, and 1-800-Flowers. Apple says it has seen "strong interest" in the service.

Business Chats must be initiated on an iPhone or iPad, but they can be continued on any other iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch signed into the same Apple ID. You can start a conversation by searching for a business in Maps, Safari, Siri, or Search by tapping on the Messages bubble where available.


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Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discover Plan Combo Checkout Button to Compete With PayPal

Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover are planning to combine their online payment options into "a single button," hoping to make customers' shopping easier and reduce friction in the checkout process. The button will be a major competitor to PayPal, and combat what's called "the Nascar effect," where multiple payment logos and options dot the purchasing interface on online marketplaces "like the side of a race car" (via Bloomberg).

The new project is being headed by Visa and Mastercard, which announced during an industry conference that they will integrate the Visa Checkout and Masterpass payment options into the button. Afterwards, spokespeople for American Express and Discover announced they are joining the project as well. With all of these platforms located behind one button, users who already have payment options saved in each will be able to checkout "with a few clicks."


Still, the project is in early stages, with a name and the visual design of the button still undecided. Visa and Mastercard hope to start moving customers enrolled in Visa Checkout and Masterpass to the new program by the end of this year, and expanded checkout support is expected in 2019.

With all of the major credit and debit card companies joining forces, the new button is believed to be a direct competitor to PayPal, which amalgamates a customer's credit cards, debit cards, and bank accounts into one place for easier checkouts.
The aim, according to the card networks, is to make online shopping simple, letting people finish with a few clicks -- an experience pioneered by PayPal Holdings Inc. Yet some analysts say the coordinated effort may ratchet up competition between cards and PayPal, something long seen as a potential risk to that company’s meteoric growth.

“This is always kind of a looming threat to PayPal,” said Thomas McCrohan, an analyst at Mizuho Americas after the first announcements this week.
In a recent survey, 58 percent of merchants said they accepted PayPal in 2017, followed by Apple Pay at 48 percent, Visa Checkout at 26 percent, Masterpass at 16 percent, and AmEx Express Checkout at 9 percent. By providing a less splintered landscape for online shopping, the credit card companies hope to increase visibility among the "one-button concept" marketplace, where people currently "think of PayPal and Amazon Pay," analyst Raymond Pucci said. "People don't really say, 'Oh yeah, Visa and Mastercard.'"

PayPal has been facing increased pressure from rival payments processors recently, with eBay in February detailing plans to phase out its 15-year-long partnership with PayPal to integrate Adyen as its primary payments platform.

PayPal and eBay have an operating agreement to stay partners through mid-2020, so the Adyen alliance will begin slowly by educating buyers and sellers about the new processor in late 2018 and throughout 2019. By 2021, eBay wants to have "transitioned a majority" of its marketplace customers to Adyen, at which time PayPal will be relegated to a secondary checkout option.

Mastercard, Discover, American Express, and Visa also plan to make checkouts simpler in physical stores, this month eliminating the signature requirement for purchases.


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