Almost 10 years after its launch, WhatsApp has grown to become one of the leading person-to-person chat platforms. In fact, across the globe users send 65 billion messages, 4.5 billion photos, and 1 billion videos every single day. Some businesses in Latin America, India, Europe, and the UK also use WhatsApp for their own internal communications.
With this success, Facebook, which bought WhatsApp back in 2014, has expanded the platform to cater to person-to-business communication. While still available only in limited markets — like here in the UK and in Pakistan and Spain — the goal with this new app is to make it easier for companies to stay in touch with their customers. For example, in some cases, one phone is responsible for messaging hundreds of customers, and it isn’t always immediately clear to customers whether they’re talking to an actual business and not to another person.
Despite the promise of WhatsApp to boost customer engagement, it’s important not to jump the gun. Its potential as a customer comms platform will be severely restricted while its new owners gradually transform into a B2C messaging platform.
[Source] WhatsApp makes it easier for customers to recognize companies on the platform.
Before getting started with WhatsApp for business, it’s important to be mindful of the limitations that could have a negative impact on customer experience, and the bottom line. Namely, the surprisingly high cost to use WhatsApp for Business, the types of message you can send, and the outbound message approval process.
Many of the features available on the current personal WhatsApp will eventually be available on the business version. When access to the platform is more widely available, you can expect to access additional benefits that allow you to:
These features go well beyond the limited capabilities of text messages to offer customers a more engaging and comprehensive experience.
Also, we can’t talk about customer communication and not mention security. With data breaches being reported more frequently, customers are more aware of the need to understand how their information is stored and used.
The good news is that WhatsApp for Business uses end-to-end encryption so that only you and your customers will see the information being sent — WhatsApp can’t even see the messages.
There are three main principles that WhatsApp for Business strives to achieve:
These principles direct the initiatives Facebook undertakes so that WhatsApp remains a place where people can better engage with businesses. Keep in mind that 81% of people start their shopping experience online before they buy. As customers conduct their research, WhatsApp can act as a tool to deliver relevant information in a timely manner.
Customer research also includes analysis of the information received from brands. It takes an average of 79 days for customers to feel as though they have enough information to move forward with a purchase. WhatsApp for Business will help you keep customers engaged and move them along the customer journey.
Depending on your industry, use Whatsapp for Business to upgrade your customer experience. Some industry examples and use cases include:
Keep in mind that since WhatsApp is under Facebook’s umbrella of products, you can access all other Facebook products to create a more holistic approach to communication. For example, if you advertise on Facebook, users will be able to click on your organic posts when you boost them and message you on WhatsApp.
You’ll be able to track these types of messages via your Facebook Ads Manager account.
For all of the benefits that the WhatsApp for Business API offers, there are also some limitations. The API is still in beta, so it’s not available in all global markets. In fact, WhatsApp is limiting the number of businesses on the business API, so you have to apply first to use it.
Once businesses are approved, WhatsApp still has to approve the initial outgoing messages. This can lead to bottlenecks in real-time communication. Messages that are time sensitive may be held up, depending on the length of the review process and whether or not the criteria for approval is clear.
Another drawback of waiting for message approval is the potential for customers to receive messages out of order — if there’s a drip campaign — or later than planned. Combined, these limitations can negatively affect the customer experience.
With text messaging, you are charged for every single message you send, regardless of whether you triggered a conversation with a customer or they did. With WhatsApp for Business if a customer sends you a message, there’s a 24-hour window during which you can respond without a fee.
However, if you message customers first or 24 hours after you receive their first message, you’re charged for each message you send. While it’s not clear what the rates will be, sending messages through WhatsApp for Business will be much higher than the cost of sending regular text messages. Depending on the size of your customer base and the types of messages you send, this cost can add up quickly.
Another limitation is the fact that sending marketing materials, such as messages that talk about product launches, upcoming events, or special offers, won’t be allowed on this platform. The focus of the API is sending customers the information they need when they need it. That includes alerts and notifications, 2FA confirmation messages, and customer service support.
The good news, however, is that if customers ask about a product, that opens the door for you to share the benefits and upsell to another product.
In order to use the WhatsApp for Business API, you have to agree to send at least 300,000 messages a month per account. Depending on the size of your company, this might not be feasible, especially if marketing materials aren’t allowed. There are only so many notifications you can send before overwhelming customers.
Another major limitation to consider is whether WhatsApp users will be receptive to communicating with brands in a space they already use exclusively for socializing with friends and family. Currently, customers turn to platforms like Facebook and Instagram to communicate with brands. It’s not clear how receptive they are to having a social space turned into a marketplace of sorts.
We’re working in partnership with Nexmo, a platform that develops and markets communication APIs for voice, messaging, and authentication, to launch our own WhatsApp for Business integration. You can keep track of the latest news on WhatsApp for business here.
We’re planning to update our platforms inbox, campaign screens, and reporting features and introduce the new API by early next year.
As the digital age continues to evolve, we’re finding new methods and technologies to help you grow your own customer base and manage it effectively. The WhatsApp for Business API is set for full release next year, so you’ll have another way to enhance interactions with your customers.
Contact us if you’d like to learn more about WhatsApp for business, and what your alternatives are.
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