Apple Business Chat launched earlier this year as a way for consumers to communicate directly with businesses on Apple’s messaging platform. Today the company announced it was expanding the program to add new businesses and support for additional countries.
When it launched in January, business partners included Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. Today’s announcement includes the likes of Burberry, West Elm, Kimpton Hotels, and Vodafone Germany.
The program, which remains in Beta, added 15 new companies today in the US and 15 internationally including in the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Italy, Australia and France.
Since the launch, companies have been coming up with creative ways to interact directly with customers in a chat setting that many users prefer over telephone trees and staticy wait music (I know I do).
For instance, Four Seasons, which launched Business Chat in July, is expanding usage to 88 properties across the globe with the ability to chat in more than 100 languages with reported average response times of around 90 seconds.
Apple previously added features like Apple Pay to iMessage to make it easy for consumers to transact directly with business in a fully digital way. If for instance, your customer service rep helps you find the perfect item, you can purchase it right then and there with Apple Pay in a fully digital payment system without having to supply a credit card in the chat interface.
What’s more, the CSR could share a link, photo or video to let you see more information on the item you’re interested in or to help you fix a problem with an item you already own. All of this can take place in iMessage, a tool millions of iPhone and iPad owners are comfortable using with friends and family.
To interact with Business Chat, customers are given messaging as a choice in contact information. If they touch this option, the interaction opens in iMessage and customers can conduct a conversation with the brand’s CSR, just as they would with friends.
This link to customer service and sales through a chat interface also fits well with the partnership with Salesforce announced last week and with the company’s overall push to the enterprise. Salesforce president and chief product officer, Bret Taylor described how Apple Business Chat could integrate with Salesforce’s Service Bot platform, which was introduced in 2017 to allow companies to build integrated automated and human response systems.
The bots could provide a first level of service and if the customer required more personal support, there could be an option to switch to Apple Business Chat.
Apple Business Chat requires iOS 11.3 or higher.
Facebook is today launching a partner program for its Express Wi-Fi initiative, which helps bring higher-speed connections to developing markets, including India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The program itself involves having local business owners install Wi-Fi hotspots, where internet service is provided by local ISPs, mobile network operators, and others that Facebook has partnered with. Now, Facebook is launching a new partner program that will allow access point manufacturers to build devices compatible with Express Wi-Fi.
Facebook first began testing Express Wi-Fi three years ago, and has since expanded it to the five above countries and 10 partners. The idea behind the project is to create an entrepreneurial grassroots base for the its Wi-Fi service – that is, the operators and ISPs would be working with local entrepreneurs who want to resell internet access in their own communities. The partners set the prices, but Facebook provides the software.
The company has tried to address the needs of developing markets before, via its zero-rating program Free Basics. But this program was criticized over net neutrality concerns, as it only provided access to specific websites – like Facebook, of course – to the developing markets. India eventually banned that program in 2016, as a result.
Express Wi-Fi, on the other hand, offers full, unrestricted access to the web, not a selection of pre-approved sites and services. It’s one of Facebook’s many connectivity initiatives today, along with others like OpenCellular, rural access programs, drones, and other infrastructure projects.
The new partner program for Express Wi-Fi, announced today, was built to address specific issues Facebook and its partners faced in the field, the company now explains. It says it has been working with the manufacturers to build new access points that better detect registration pages and more accurately count the amount of Wi-Fi data consumed.
This will allow the Wi-Fi service providers to sell prepaid access as well as different traffic classes – like offering some services or content for free, while charging for others. Presumably, this would be another avenue of making Facebook free to developing markets down the road.
Facebook says having hardware manufacturers on board will help its operator partners more easily set up and manage their Express Wi-Fi hotspots.
Weak and expensive connectivity is a big barrier to Facebook adoption in developing markets, especially as user growth in developed regions is stalling – or, even decreasing at times. In July, Facebook reported no user growth in the U.S. and Canada, and a loss of European users it attribute to GDPR requirements. Developing regions, however, are still coming online and could bring Facebook a whole host of new users, if people can get connected.
While crowdfunding company Indiegogo has been running a pilot program in China for the past couple of years, it’s now building on those efforts with the launch of the Indiegogo China Global Fast-Track Program.
CEO David Mandelbrot is in Shenzhen, China this week to announce the program, which is designed to help Chinese entrepreneurs reach a global audience. In an email, he told me:
The China Pilot Program is officially out of pilot phase — today, we are officially launching the Indiegogo Global Fast Track. During the pilot phase, the team experimented with different ways to help service Chinese brands and manufacturers who were looking to launch products overseas. After helping companies raise over $ 100 million and launch over 3,000 China-based projects over two years time, the team has finalized its new suite of services.
Those services include guidance around crowdfunding and marketing in the United States and other countries, access to a network of more than 65 service providers (including retailers and marketing firms, as well as Indiegogo’s manufacturing partner Arrow Electronics and shipping partner Ingram Micro) and Chinese-to-English consultation with bilingual staff.
Even while in the pilot phase, Indiegogo has had some success stories in helping Chinese companies launch globally. For example, Bluetooth headphone company crazybaby raised more than $ 4 million across three campaigns.
Mandelbrot said Indiegogo also has opened a satellite office in the Tencent incubator in Shenzhen — a manufacturing hub that’s become a hub for hardware startups, too.
WeWork — the co-working startup valued at $ 20 billion with some 200,000 members across 200 locations globally — is continuing with its strategy of expanding into a wide array of adjacent operations to grow its business. Today the company announced that it will be expanding the coding-focused Flatiron School abroad, starting in London this June. Alongside this, it’s also… Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch
When we heard from Sumo Logic last June, the company was announcing a $ 75 million Series F. Today, they announced they were acquiring FactorChain, a security startup that has raised $ 3.6 million. The companies would not disclose the purchase price, but indicated the acquisition closed at the end of Q4 and all 12 FactorChain employees have joined Sumo Logic, including CEO Dave Frampton and CTO… Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch
Twitter’s big push to draw in more live video stars to its Periscope streaming service is now expanding beyond the U.S. The company announced today the Periscope Super Broadcaster program, which allows video stars to earn revenue from their streams through a virtual tipping mechanism, is now available in Canada, Ireland, and the U.K. Other countries will be added to the program soon,… Read More
Social – TechCrunch
Twitter added two new features today; both designed to keep you on the platform for just a little bit longer.
First, they’ve expanded the definition of a “Direct Message” so that it includes a conversation with up to 20 people.
New! Use Direct Messages to speak privately with a group of up to 20 people. Share Tweets, show emoji & be yourself. https://t.co/8giGhC6OO0
— Twitter (@twitter) January 27, 2015
I say, if you’re having a conversation with 20 people on Twitter, you might as well have it in public because . . . . 20 people!
Remember, you can only send a direct message to someone who is following you but this update muddies the water a little. When you send a group direct message, each person has to be following you but they don’t have to be following each other. Does that mean the odd man out can or can’t see the replies from the other people? For this to work, everyone has to see every reply, right? So now, two people who don’t follow each other (maybe for a good reason) are now a part of the same, private conversation.
This could get ugly.
It could also be a handy way to share information with co-workers or connected customers; like all of the decision makers from one company.
You can also use this new feature to share a public tweet with a private group of people. In the example, a man shares a photo of a rabbit that he found on Twitter with a group of friends with the suggestion that they buy one as a gift for a ‘not-included in the DM list’ friend. I suggest they don’t.
The second new feature is the ability to capture, edit and share videos right from the Twitter app. The camera functionality is like Vine. You switch to camera mode then hold down the button to film. If you film in short bursts, you can then eliminate any clip with a swipe. What you leave behind will automatically splice itself together to create a video.
Now there’s no excuse for not using video on your business Twitter.
Twitter is slowly rolling out both of these options to all users. So keep watching your app for updates.