WhatsApp is a free mobile app that uses your phone’s internet connection to let you chat with other WhatsApp users, without SMS text message charges. The app also lets you share files and images, and supports free voice and video calls.
Its support for a wide range of phones has made it especially popular in areas with high SMS charges, including Brazil, Mexico, and Malaysia—where 60 percent of the population uses WhatsApp. In fact, it’s the most popular alternative to SMS in 109 countries or 55.6 percent of the world.
While Facebook acquired WhatsApp for US$19 billion in February 2014, it’s been operating as a separate entity since then and hasn’t yet seen the same marketing-friendly features as Facebook Messenger.
What is WhatsApp Business App?
WhatsApp Business is a free-to-download app that was built with the small business owner in mind. Create a catalog to showcase your products and services. Connect with your customers easily by using tools to automate, sort, and quickly respond to messages.
WhatsApp Business, however, is a special app for companies that are already available. It helps simplify communication with customers, separates private from customer contacts, and helps you make an official company presence. In some countries, the business app has been available since mid-January 2018. It will continue to be released worldwide, step by step.
For medium and large businesses, the WhatsApp Business API powers your communication with customers all over the world, so you can connect with them on WhatsApp in a simple, secure, and reliable way.
Why Should you use WhatsApp for Business?
The best reason to use WhatsApp for business is that many of your customers are probably already using it. More than 60 billion messages are sent through WhatsApp every single day.
Surprisingly, users of WhatsApp and similar services are willing to engage with businesses. According to Nielsen’s Facebook Messaging Survey, 67 percent of mobile messaging app users said they expect to use chat more for communicating with businesses over the next two years. What’s more, 53 percent of respondents say they’re more likely to shop with a business they can message directly.
If your customers and prospects are young, they’re more likely to be comfortable using messaging apps for their day-to-day communication. A study by Pew Research Center shows that 42 percent of smartphone owners between 18 and 29 years old use messaging apps like WhatsApp, compared with only 19 percent of smartphone owners who are 50 or older.
Plus, messaging apps like WhatsApp have incredible engagement rates: 98 percent of mobile messages are opened and read, with 90 percent of them getting opened within three seconds of being received.
In fact, a huge majority of sharing online—84 percent—now takes place on private channels like messaging apps, so even if you’re not using WhatsApp to market your business, your prospects are likely using it to extend your content’s reach already.
Why Use WhatsApp for Marketing?
With over one billion daily users, the messenger app offers companies a unique chance to make their customer communication more personal. It should focus less on advertising, and more on consulting. The majority of WhatsApp users are looking for individual and direct contact.
What they don’t usually imagine is the WhatsApp newsletter, which functions as a replacement for the classic e-mail newsletter. Customers prefer uncomplicated customer service and consulting from the company via WhatsApp.
Marketers also see great potential in using the app for community management and personal marketing. In this way, WhatsApp offers new possibilities for company communication – and not only externally. The app is also a suitable alternative to team messengers such as Slack, Twist, and others.
Companies should focus primarily on exclusivity and authenticity when using WhatsApp. The goals are long-term customer loyalty and more sales. And the chances for this aren’t bad: Those who trust companies with their phone number over WhatsApp are usually happy with the product or service and also trust the company in general.
Whether the investment is really worth it for companies is hard to say, though. WhatsApp marketing hasn’t yet been tested enough, and the ways of measuring it are still too immature. But companies can get more attention for their offer using the first-mover advantage. Since the app is mainly used on smartphones (and the browser application also requires a phone number), WhatsApp marketing is the most useful for mobile target groups.
WhatsApp Marketing Strategies and Tips
While WhatsApp is different in its reach and features than other messenger apps, it’s important to develop your WhatsApp strategy alongside your general messaging app marketing strategy.
There are a few limitations you need to address when developing your WhatsApp marketing strategy. First of all, there is no such thing as a business account, so if your brand is creating an account it faces the same limitations as any other user.
Since each WhatsApp account is tied directly to a single mobile phone number—and you can only message with up to 256 WhatsApp users at once—it isn’t a good choice for large-scale, one-to-many marketing. So your chances of success are higher when you use its limitations to your advantage.
Not surprisingly, some of the best examples of effective WhatsApp campaigns hail from regions with the highest penetration, including South America. Here are some case studies of brands that have made an impact on using WhatsApp for marketing.
- When Absolut Vodka launched their Limited Edition Absolut Unique bottle collection in Argentina WhatsApp was a natural place to try and build buzz, since 84 percent of the country’s mobile phone users were on the app at the time. For the launch, they decided to host a very exclusive party. The catch? There were only two invitations available to the public. Anyone wanting to win these tickets had to use WhatsApp to contact an imaginary bouncer named Sven and convince him to let them go. The campaign generated over 1,000 unique images, videos, and audio messages people created to convince Sven and built buzz in the community. Tip: Offer one-on-one help to inspire new uses for a product
- Hellmann’s in Brazil wanted to inspire people to think of mayonnaise as a cooking ingredient, not just a condiment. So they invited visitors to their website to submit their phone numbers along with a picture of the contents of their refrigerator. They were then connected through WhatsApp with real chefs, who came up with a recipe using Hellmann’s and the other ingredients in their fridge. The chefs even taught the users how to cook the meal through pictures, videos, and other WhatsApp features. The results? A total of 13,000 participants spent an average of 65 minutes interacting with the brand, and 99.5 percent of them approved of the service. The brand was so happy with the results from the Brazilian campaign, they rolled it out to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Tip: Offer discreet advice and service to high-value customers
- High-end lingerie brand Agent Provocateur has been using WhatsApp to offer their top clients updates on new arrivals and events at the brand’s stores for a while now. Customers can also ask for advice from the privacy of the messenger service. The approach was so popular with VIPs that Agent Provocateur’s launched a similar WhatsApp promotion named Ménage à Trois for all customers last Christmas. WhatsApp users could invite a personal shopper into a group conversation with their partner to discuss what they wanted for Christmas. Agent Provocateur’s team of style advisers answered the questions manually, engaging with each couple. While it was a small campaign—with 112 conversations taking place—31 percent of the chats resulted in in-store visits and 61 percent converted to website traffic.
How Does WhatsApp Marketing Work?
Once you set the strategy, the implementation can begin. Things that go on in everyday life can become time-consuming with marketing for a company using WhatsApp. A large number of recipients has to be managed well. This can be done using broadcast lists in Android or iOS.
#1. Broadcasting With WhatsApp Web
Longer messages can be sent more easily using the WhatsApp web service on the PC. WhatsApp Web runs on all popular browsers such as Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. But the web version only functions if the app is also installed on your smartphone. After initial login, WhatsApp synchronizes all messages. Users can read and write messages from all end devices. But recipients can only be added or removed from broadcast lists using the smartphone app. The number of participants is limited to 256.
#2. Observe the legal limitations
WhatsApp’s terms and conditions present a legal uncertainty for companies because there are no concrete regulations governing the use of messaging services commercially. It was previously unknown, however, that WhatsApp would have punished a company for using the app for customer communications.
Instead, the desire for companies to use the messaging service as a marketing channel has been increasingly pursued by the time and energy invested in the development of WhatsApp Business. Whether it’s possible to efficiently use this WhatsApp variant for advertising, though, is still questionable.
In any case, companies that want to use WhatsApp for marketing need to pay attention to telecommunication and online privacy laws. Sending advertising messages requires the consent of the recipient, so marketing with WhatsApp uses the double-opt-in procedure. To register for a WhatsApp newsletter, you’ll be asked to explicitly confirm your subscription. This can be done, for example, using a pre-defined word such as “Start.”
Using WhatsApp to contact customers without their consent is unadvisable, especially because of the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into effect in May. The law states that companies who want to engage in WhatsApp marketing have a duty to provide information and a duty to document.
According to this, the company must not only inform its customers when personal data is being processed but must also carefully document these processing steps.
How Registering for a WhatsApp Newsletter Works
If the customer is convinced, then they just have to register with the double opt-in. This is a small hurdle that every company that uses WhatsApp marketing has to face. Here’s how it works.
- As a provider, first, select a mobile device and a phone number via which you’d like to send the WhatsApp messages.
- The customer obtains that phone number from your website (first opt-in).
- Then they add you as a contact in their phone book
- The customer writes the company a message with the word “Start” to activate the WhatsApp newsletter (second opt-in)
- The newsletter can be disabled with the word “Stop”
Examples of message content for starting and stopping WhatsApp newsletters.
#1. Support using subscription services
WhatsApp advertising becomes more professional with the use of broadcast services such as WhatsBroadcast, instantKOM, or WhatsATool. These allow you to send messages quickly and easily through a browser.
You don’t need a separate phone number. Instead, just integrate the service into your website using a widget, for example. The messages can be supplemented with images, videos, graphics, or links, and then sent with one click to all of your recipients. How well this WhatsApp marketing is received by customers can be tracked with hourly statistics.
Depending on the chosen price category, the company can also offer additional functions such as interfaces (e.g. to Facebook Messenger), URL shorteners, or an increased dispatch speed. You can usually test these services first.
#2. Creativity is sought after
Creating added value and attracting attention is key when it comes to marketing with WhatsApp. How to do this, though, is still mostly up to experimentation. At this point, there are only a few best practices for the channel. What works also depends on the target group and the product.
Use a step-by-step method to determine what will be successful for a company on WhatsApp. At the beginning of a WhatsApp marketing campaign, the following factors should be tested:
• Length of the WhatsApp message
• Send frequency
• Send time
• Number and placement of emojis
• Attachment of media such as images and videos
The human mind processes images around 60,000 times faster than text – a good argument for why you should work with numerous emojis. If set up appropriately, subscribers to newsletters will receive the message better and will also be more concerned with its content. The combination of image or video and text also draws more attention.
WhatsApp Marketing Examples
Though it hasn’t fully caught on yet in the US, there are already some examples of marketing campaigns over WhatsApp. We’ve gathered together a couple of examples here.
This successful cooking blog operates under the motto “Spice up your life!” and has grown into an absolute treasure trove of healthy recipes to make at home.
In addition to a fully equipped blog and recipe index, CookingCarnival offers a WhatsApp newsletter to help inspire readers with new recipe ideas. Subscribers receive messages with links to healthy, vegetarian recipes every few days.
#2. Holiday Pirates
WhatsApp announced plans for its business app already in summer 2017. At the beginning of 2018, WhatsApp Business officially launched. The new version, which is solely for small businesses, currently only runs on Android, is now gradually being introduced worldwide.
WhatsApp is designed to enable companies to create an official presence, separate customer messages from private messages, and make quick communication in general easier. At the same time, nothing is meant to change for users. Unwanted company numbers are still able to be blocked.
In order to protect your privacy, the video will not load until you click on it.
A company profile on WhatsApp Business exceeds the range of a normal WhatsApp profile: it can appear with a company description, contact information (e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, websites), and opening hours, therefore fulfilling their legal obligations. The problem with automatic data synchronization is still present, however. This means that even when using WhatsApp Business, companies may only store the numbers of customers who have given their consent or initiated contact themselves.
You can save quick replies for messages frequently sent to customers, as well as set up absence messages. And also label all contacts and chats to help keep track of them.
WhatsApp marketing is especially interesting because the app delivers statistics on sent messages. This lets you trace how many messages were transmitted, and how many of these were read.
Looking to the future: WhatsApp for Enterprises and Status Ads
For some time now, companies have been able to sign up for the WhatsApp Business API. This works independently of the Business API and is aimed at medium-sized and large enterprises in particular. Since the interface is still in the test phase, access has so far been restricted.
However, it’s fair to assume that the API will be activated for all interested companies in the near future as part of the already announced WhatsApp for Enterprises service. The WhatsApp Business API and the future enterprise service will take enterprise communications over WhatsApp to the next level with features like the following:
- Customer Support: Connections to CRM tools like SalesForce or FreshDesk, including live chat solutions like ZenDesk
- Transactions: The ability to make purchases or bookings through WhatsApp and send corresponding invoices through integration with internal APIs.
- Online payments: Processing online payments by dynamically generated payment links
- Shipment tracking: automatic updates on the delivery status of shipped goods through WhatsApp
- Notifications: Real-time notifications of upcoming events, tasks, etc. based on the “if-then” function
- Bots and automated processes: Automate time-consuming tasks like collecting feedback or transferring leads to Excel spreadsheets.
There are already plans for paid advertisement placing to be made available in early 2019, similar to Instagram stories. While it was always in the founder’s interests not to advertise on WhatsApp, this is the first significant step towards monetizing the Messenger app five years after its acquisition by Facebook.
However, at least at the start, users should be able to choose whether they want to receive advertising or not.
Alternatives: Business on Messenger and SMS Marketing
Competition for WhatsApp comes from within its own house. Since 2016, Facebook has featured Business on Messenger, which basically covers the same scenarios as WhatsApp Business.
Another alternative is SMS marketing. In principle, this functions the same way as e-mail marketing: With minimal effort and comparatively low costs, messages can be sent to a large circle of recipients. But subscribers are responsible for paying the SMS costs required for interaction.
Summary: New Marketing Channel With a Future
For many WhatsApp users, messenger service has become an important part of their life. This makes it all the more valuable as a location for your service. Communication via private channels allows a particularly close relationship between customers and companies.
To what extent WhatsApp marketing will pay off for companies isn’t clear yet. There are still too few meaningful ways of measuring it, and too few case studies on the topic.
In the coming years, the messenger’s monetization will finally be realized with the launch of the planned advertising strategy, whereby advertisements will be shown on status messages and the WhatsApp for Enterprise service. It will be exciting to see to what extent these companies can benefit from WhatsApp advertising.
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