iOS 11.3: How to talk to businesses using iMessage


With the release of iOS 11.3 this week, Apple’s new Business Chat feature is here. It lets you place orders, get advice or schedule appointments with businesses directly in the Messages app.  Business Chat is available on any iPhone or iPad device running iOS 11.3, and while conversations will sync to the Messages app on a Mac, you can’t complete transactions or use all of the features. The service is in beta, and currently limited to the US.

Current list of businesses

At launch, only a handful of companies are set up and ready to talk with customers via Business Chat. According to Apple’s website, you’re limited to:
Apple/Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
As time goes on, more companies will surely add support for the feature. But instead of referring to an ever-changing list, it’s pretty easy to figure out when a company works with Business Chat.

What to look for

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET
There are a few different ways to start a conversation with a business from your iOS device.

  • When searching through Spotlight for a business, look for the Messages icon. Tap it to start a conversation.
  • On a website, look for a Chat with Messages button.
  • Searching in Safari, an autofill suggestion can contain a Messages button.

Some companies, such as retailer NewEgg, have integrated the chat feature into their iOS apps, giving you another option to start a conversation.

What can you do?

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET
Once you tap on the Messages icon, the Messages app on your iOS device will open with the recipient field populated. Type your message, asking for help or saying what you need. With Lowe’s, for example, you can ask for help and recommendations surrounding your current project. You can also reschedule deliveries. The look and feel of a Business Chat changes to match the company you’re talking to. For peace of mind, a check mark indicates you’re talking with a true customer service representative and not someone posing as a business. With 1-800-Flowers, for example, you can send a picture of some flowers you like, and the representative will try and find a local option that best matches the photo. bc-dark3x
At times they’ll give you a drop-down menu to ask you a question.

You don’t have to stay active in the conversation. As long as you leave the conversation on your iOS device, you can continue getting help whenever you like. Some vendors currently support purchasing a product or service directly within the chat using Apple Pay, while others plan to add Apple Pay support in the coming months.

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