As you may have already heard (especially if you’ve been following PostFunnel in recent months), earlier this year, the popular messaging and VoIP app WhatsApp released a version of its platform specifically meant for small businesses.
Appropriately dubbed WhatsApp Business, this new version (which is currently available for Android devices only) provides organizations with the basic functionalities of the “vanilla” app, and adds a number of business-focused features, including:
- The ability to create a verified business profile, complete with company industry and description, contact information, store hours, and more
- Labels for the purpose of segmentation and/or sales funnel tracking of individual customers
- Quick replies, which allows companies to create premade messages for common occurrences (such as when a customer asks a frequently asked question, or to confirm receipt of payment)
- Automated messages for greeting customers or notifying them of offline status
- Internal tracking of message performance, such as sent, delivered, and read rate
Some would say that the release of WhatsApp Business has been a long time coming, as many brands have been using the basic platform for marketing purposes for quite some time now. Of course, doing so previously required companies to do all of the above manually – or not at all.
While the release of WhatsApp Business will surely be seen as a boon for small and large companies alike in the coming years, it’s important that we take a step back and discuss just why such a platform is all but necessary by today’s standards.
What WhatsApp Business Can Teach Us About Interacting with the Modern Consumer
It’s no secret that the modern consumer thinks and behaves much differently than consumers of past decades.
Not only that, but the expectations of today’s consumers have also changed – and continue to evolve on an ongoing basis. It’s up to the companies of today to cater to these evolved needs, expectations, and behaviors in a way that streamlines the experience for the modern consumer.
Which is why WhatsApp Business is an asset for your company moving forward.
Reaching Consumers via Their Preferred Channel
The last time you, as a consumer, needed to make or receive a phone call to/from a company, what was your initial thought?
It was probably something along the lines of “uuuuuggggghhhh.”
Don’t worry; you’re not alone. When it comes to engaging with companies regarding consumer-related affairs, the majority of the population would much rather do so via text or messaging app. Messaging apps are even preferable to email, as well.
Perhaps most surprisingly, though, is that this preference remains rather constant from generation to generation. According to the Nielsen study linked above, 65% of Millennials, 65% of Generation X’ers, and 63% of Baby Boomers all prefer to engage with brands via text or messaging app rather than email or phone.
Reason being? Most people see texting as more efficient and effective overall.
More specifically, consumers report that engaging via text with brands makes communication:
- Easier (69% reporting)
- More ongoing (65% reporting)
- More frequent (63% reporting)
- More thoughtful (59% reporting)
Overall, 50% of consumers say that being able to engage with a brand via text-based messaging has led to an improved relationship between the two parties. Along with this, 53% say that being able to directly engage with a brand via text message makes them more likely to continue doing business with the brand moving forward.
It’s no surprise that nearly 70% of consumers now expect to be able to engage with their favorite brands via text or messaging app. As Field Service News points out, “it’s not your direct competitors setting customer expectations, it’s the best experiences these customers have had anywhere.” In other words, your customers who have had positive experiences engaging with other brands via WhatsApp – regardless of the industry those brands operate in – will typically expect your brand to provide a similar experience at some point in the near future.
(Source / Caption: Even using WhatsApp simply for transactional purposes can give you a leg up on the competition.)
Enhancing Engagement and the Customer Experience
Given that messaging platforms are becoming the preferred method of communication for modern consumers, it should come as no surprise that engagement metrics for such channels are through the roof. According to data collected by Dynmark, the open rate for branded SMS and text messages is an astounding 98%. What’s more, 90% of those opened messages are opened within three seconds of being received.
Additionally, nearly 30% of those who open such messages respond, click through, or otherwise engage further with the brand. Of those who engage further, 47% go on to make a purchase from the brand. Of course, these outcomes aren’t guaranteed. As with all marketing initiatives, your customer-facing efforts using WhatsApp need to add value to their experience in one way or another to be effective.
One of the most effective ways to improve your customers’ experiences with your brand is to personalize your engagements as much as you possibly can. The direct line of communication with each of your customers is vital for that. WhatsApp makes it all the more easier to make this happen.
There may be no better illustration of the impact that personalized engagements via WhatsApp can have on the customer experience than Hellman’s experimental marketing campaign.
Basically, the company most known for its signature mayonnaise wanted to promote their mayo as a cooking ingredient, rather than “just a condiment.” So, its marketing team connected with a number of customers via WhatsApp, and asked them to take pictures of their current stock of food (in their refrigerator, cupboards, etc.) and send them over to their “personal chef” on the messaging app. The chef would then provide a personalized recipe for the individual based on what they had in stock (including mayonnaise).
The experiment was a huge success. Of the 13,000 consumers who participated, over 12,900 of them approved of the experience. What’s more, those who participated engaged with the brand for an average of 65 total minutes throughout the initiative. Let me say that again: this marketing campaign focused on mayonnaise got consumers to remain engaged for over an hour. What more could Hellman’s have possibly wanted?
Let’s take a look at one more example of personalized marketing via WhatsApp.
During the 2016 holiday season (yes, before WhatsApp Business came about), lingerie brand Agent Provocateur put on a campaign in which a romantically-involved couple would join a WhatsApp group with a representative of the brand. Together, the couple and the salesperson would discuss their exact needs, while the representative provided product suggestions accordingly.
Despite the fact that only 112 couples participated (the promotion was specifically for VIP members only), over 60% of them ended up clicking through to the company’s website, while 31% of them visited a nearby brick-and-mortar location.
Not bad for a rather risqué marketing campaign.
Increases the Reach of Omnichannel Marketing Initiatives
Omnichannel marketing is, as we’ve previously established, the way of the future – and messaging apps will likely be a huge part of the equation.
Implemented correctly, WhatsApp and other messaging apps can add yet another touchpoint – and a lot more ubiquity – to a brand’s omnichannel marketing initiatives. Many brands have taken to adding a WhatsApp button to their site’s contact page alongside other such buttons:
Taking things a step further – and this is where true omnichannel marketing comes into play – you’d want to use your presence on WhatsApp not just as an additional platform for communication and engagement, but as a way to “keep the conversation going.”
Let’s say a customer of Agent Provocateur had already added a number of items to their wish list via the company’s website. They’d then be able to send a link to their wish list to the company rep they were assigned to on WhatsApp, who could then provide additional information about each item, helping the couple narrow down their choices. Finally, once they decided, the company rep could have the order shipped to the closest brick-and-mortar location, where the couple could pick it up with ease.
Also worth noting is that the main purpose of WhatsApp is still to allow friends and peers to communicate with one another via text message. As brands become more prevalent on the app, they may be able to figure out ways in which to not only engage with their current customers, but also with others within those customers’ networks. In a way, the consumer may become a marketing platform within a marketing platform.
Let’s explain that a bit further:
As reported by the New York Times, consumers (and all other web users) share content for a variety of reasons:
- To bring value to others
- To define themselves to others
- To nurture their relationships
- For self-fulfillment
- To spread positive word-of-mouth
People share content all the time via social media and other such public platforms. However, platforms like WhatsApp makes it much easier for “dark social sharing” to occur. Essentially, dark social sharing refers to any instance of private communication that exists solely in the sender’s and receiver’s virtual mailboxes.
While dark social sharing inherently means that fewer people see the content, the upside is that consumers tend to be laser-focused when sharing such content with friends, family members, or colleagues. They’ll typically use messaging apps to send specific content to specific individuals.
For brands using WhatsApp and such platforms, this means that they can be a bit more certain that their content, when shared by their current customers, will reach other like-minded individuals who have a high potential of becoming paid customers in the relatively near future.
In much the same way that email went from being a novelty to a necessity (in several ways – one being marketing via email), so, too has text messaging technology.
As we mentioned earlier, while brands certainly have been using texting and messaging apps to engage with their customers for quite some time now, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that such methods are no longer just “nice to have”; they’re now expected by the modern consumer.
If you haven’t yet hopped on the WhatsApp bandwagon, you may quickly find your company struggling to keep up with your competitors.