Online messaging platforms have transformed the way we communicate. Nowhere is this more apparent than in business and marketing. Gaining direct access to the customer base has given way to many new forms of B2B and B2C techniques. WhatsApp has emerged as a top messaging platform in the world due to its easy-to-use, cross-platform mobile and desktop apps, currently boasting over 2 billion active monthly users across 180 countries and accessible in 20+ different languages.
Recent additions like end-to-end encryption have bolstered its use as a reliable business communication tool, enabling features such as faster, direct customer support and targeted marketing. WhatsApp's takeover by Facebook (now Meta) in 2019 for a staggering $19 billion has only increased its reputation as a solid choice for businesses.
It is natural that more businesses now are trying to tap into this large user base - a task that is more complex than it sounds. With WhatsApp not officially supporting in-app advertisements, and end-to-end encryptions making directed advertisements tougher, the correct way to market using WhatsApp remains tricky as ever. Add to that the fee that WhatsApp business users need to pay to send out messages. While these intricacies may seem a deterrent to using the platform, high ROI continues to push businesses towards WhatsApp.
In this article, we'll take a deep dive into WhatsApp Business and how you as a marketer can leverage this platform to elevate your business to the next level.
WhatsApp Business - what is it and how did it come into existence?
WhatsApp Business was introduced in January 2018 as an extension to its long list of feature sets. It was targeted to be a communication bridge between businesses of all sizes to their customer bases to showcase their products and provide state-of-the-art customer support. Over the years, more features have made their way to WhatsApp Business - including an easily integrable API, wider app support, and even QR codes.
WhatsApp's fundamental approach to providing a free, secure, and robust communications channel helped WhatsApp Business reach immense popularity fast. Compared to traditional methods of direct communication like emails and text messages (SMS), WhatsApp Business is faster, supports a wider variety of formats including rich text and media, and has no platform limitations like text size. WhatsApp Business - often meant for small to medium businesses, is free to use. The WhatsApp Business API - suitable for larger organizations - requires a fee.
After the acquisition by Facebook, WhatsApp Business has become a partially paid platform, requiring businesses to pay a small fee to reach their customer base - lower when the communication is initiated by the user, and higher when initiated by the business. Now that WhatsApp Business allows promotional as well as transactional messages, businesses can build customized marketing campaigns that stand out from their competition.
What is WhatsApp Business API and why does it matter?
In simple terms, an API or Application Programming Interface is a bridge enabling two software applications to talk to one another. WhatsApp Business API, likewise, enables third-party applications to integrate WhatsApp into their business functions as a messaging endpoint. To use this API, however, organizations are advised to use a Business Solutions Provider (BSP). With time, more BSPs are now offering APIs hosted in the cloud, cutting down operating costs even further for businesses that leverage them. In 2022, Meta has also introduced a cloud based API - aptly dubbed WhatsApp Cloud API - to help businesses bypass the BSP overhead and cut down on development and maintenance costs. The self-serve nature of this cloud API makes integrations much easier and seamless, while Meta handles all the backend maintenance duties.
If you are integrating WhatsApp Business with your organization's existing customer engagement platform, look no further than utilizing WhatsApp Business Cloud API. Not only do you get the full suite of features that WhatsApp currently supports, but you also get day one access to all the latest functionalities. WhatsApp also manages patching and updates to the API, reducing your headache of keeping the platform bug-free and secure.
WhatsApp Business API Use Cases
Here are some common areas where WhatsApp Business API can be utilized.
- Promotional Messages (like offers, sales etc.) are possibly the most common use cases for this WhatsApp Business. It can be utilized to send targeted messages to the intended user demographic for best chances of sales conversion.
- Transactional Messages (like tickets, purchase confirmations) are records of sales and are very important to both the end-user as well as the business. These can be tracked using CRM and other data analytics to create in-depth reports of an organization’s sales performance.
- Customer Support is another big area where WhatsApp Business API is gaining a lot of ground. Integrating this API with automated chatbots is providing a lot of value to both - users get instantaneous answers to their queries, and businesses get a zero-downtime customer support that is easy to maintain.
- Announcements can take advantage of WhatsApp’s broadcasting system to deliver important news to end-users, employees and more.
- Research & Feedback are key for every business. Using WhatsApp Business API, businesses can create innovative user-opinion endpoints like polls, surveys, NPS etc. The results captured from these endpoints can then be analyzed to gain valuable insight into the user’s choices.
- WhatsApp Business API can be configured to have messages sent as Reminders for bill payments, plan expiry and more. This is another value-add service that most customers appreciate.
- Reports and Recommendations, while niche, can also be generated via WhatsApp Business API. It can track and create an overview of an user’s spending patterns and share it with them; or analyze those patterns and recommend products to the user. Most eCommerce sites use this predictive analysis on their websites with good success rates, and WhatsApp Business API can do it for you as a business owner too.
Why should you use WhatsApp Business for marketing?
More than 60 billion messages are sent via WhatsApp per day. As the world adapts to a mobile-first approach to business, businesses are trying to find more ways to advertise their products to the growing smartphone user base. Customers now more than ever are ready to purchase from a business with whom they can promptly communicate. Recent reports have also shown this trend: Nielsen's Facebook Messaging Report indicated that more than 67% of mobile users were more comfortable communicating with businesses via a chatbot or similar online messaging platforms. An increasing number of young customers have contributed to this uptick.
Messaging apps like WhatsApp present a compelling case for themselves to be used as business communication platforms by their stellar engagement rates. People read and react to messages almost instantaneously. Messaging platforms also see the most shares and reposts. Businesses can take advantage of this to connect deeper with their customers.
Moreover, WhatsApp Business comes with all the features of the WhatsApp messaging platform. That means the ability to share news, catalog, and promotions to customers quickly; support for a variety of static and dynamic media formats for video and audio-based content, and more.
WhatsApp's laundry list of features, global reach, and platform agnostic approach makes it an infinitely scalable messaging platform, suitable for any size of business.
Marketing via WhatsApp Business: Best Practices
So you have decided to leverage WhatsApp Business to market your products or services. Here are some key pointers to remember to get the best out of this platform:
- Create a unique and engaging brand persona for your business
The best way to stand out and generate sales conversion for your business is to build a brand persona that is unique and engaging. WhatsApp Business makes it easier for users to recognize businesses with eye-catching, distinct identities. You as a business owner, likewise, need to create a mobile-focused identity that is easily distinguishable to create more reach.
- Create a value proposition to build your user database
To build a database of customers, focus on delivering value to them. Create an ecosystem that rewards communication and engagement to have users reach out to your business via WhatsApp. Well-timed promotions, catchy messages with call-to-action graphics, and taglines can go a long way towards this. A growing database of users is an invaluable tool to gain further insights from and further customize your services accordingly.
- Frequently offer relevant content
Using WhatsApp's global messaging platform to increase leads and convert sales requires frequent, active engagement with your user base. Creating and sharing content and offers personalized towards your customers not only increases sales but also converts more users into customers.
- Set up fast, scalable customer service
Near-infinite scalability of WhatsApp means it can respond accordingly to increasing customer demands. You as a business owner must be able to scale your response mechanisms to user queries to provide quick responses. You should utilize automation tools like chatbots that scale seamlessly with demand to provide quick responses. Modern customers tend to choose businesses that are quick to meet their changing needs. Keep this in mind and set up a backend support system that scales seamlessly with WhatsApp.
- Conduct and rely on consumer research and feedback
Most users respond immediately to your messages, promotions and trivia. Feedback thus gained can be then analyzed to understand the pros and cons of your marketing approaches and products/services. Generate interactive polls and engaging discussions to create an ecosystem of organic feedback.
- Establish a niche for your brand
Positioning your brand is key to engaging more customers. Establish this by generating a plethora of interactive content and offering prompt customer support.
- Leverage all the features of WhatsApp
WhatsApp Business extends the feature set further, giving you access to APIs, QR codes, and more. Use these to your benefit to not only offer customers more value but generate user insights.
WhatsApp is a brand's direct connection with the customer. Unlike push notification which is 1-way, WhatsApp lets your customers respond back. When building marketing campaigns for WhatsApp, personalization plays a big role. Users should be able to distinguish your business from others easily, with a niche brand identity. Image personalization engines like Vizard can help your business by offering personalized on-brand images & videos that can be used to create hyper-personalized messages.
How to get started with a marketing campaign via WhatsApp Business
Once you have set up your WhatsApp business account, the next step is to create a can’t-say-no-to marketing campaign. Let’s see how you can achieve this.
- Set up a goal and target user demographic
The first step in any direct-response marketing campaign is to set up clear-cut goals. As a business, your primary goal should be increasing ROI - and the decisions you make during the inception of your marketing campaign have the biggest impact on it. Are you promoting a new product? Are you extending your operations? Setting up well-defined goals will help you define a roadmap to achieve them. Ensure that your goal is achievable via WhatsApp messaging platform.
Arguably one of the most important steps is to fixate on a user segment to target your marketing campaign towards. Zero in on the user group that your marketing campaign can get the most out of. Think like an end user - if you receive this message, does it make you curious or annoyed about the services/products advertised? Utilize insights gained from analyzing key demographic data to confidently focus on your goals.
- Customize your offer: create a clear message and design a call-to-action
Create an offer that incentivizes prompt user action by appealing to people’s emotions. Correlate your marketing goal with your user demographic to create promotions and offers specifically curated for that group.
It is imperative to articulate your message, providing enough value, context, and reason for users to promptly respond to call-to-action items. Before implementation, test your message with a sample set of target users to ensure you get appropriate responses.
Every marketing campaign has to include a call-to-action that customers are softly nudged to do through the campaign. Some common CTA examples include:
- Fill a form
- Book an appointment
- Buy an item
- Use a coupon code
- Inquire about a product or a service
Create your call-to-action templates keeping WhatsApp's general conversational nature in mind. Customers should be able to respond to these CTAs to engage with a chatbot or talk to a sales rep. Ensure you test your CTAs against a pool of test users to see if they are working as intended.
- Submit your message template for WhatsApp review
After you have created your marketing messaging template, you need to submit it to WhatsApp for approval. This usually takes a day but can take up to 5 days. Post approval, you can plan for a launch date of your marketing campaign on WhatsApp.
- Execute the campaign and track ROI after it is released
Use standard WhatsApp messaging methods to execute your campaign. Reach your key demographic with targeted marketing, and keep a track of user responses.
Once your marketing campaign is released, you need to track your revenue against the cost of the campaign.
WhatsApp's report in 2020 stated that it had over 50 million business users worldwide. To facilitate smooth onboarding of larger businesses, it then introduced features like QR codes that when scanned, opened up pre-populated messages to start a conversation with a business, a business catalog for the users to look into, and more. Features like these combined with the ease of integrating WhatsApp Business API with existing applications continue to make more waves in the realm of online direct marketing through this popular messaging platform.
With newer features like a paid business tier, cloud API and others releasing in 2022 - this messaging platform has become very lucrative for businesses of all sizes. If you are a small business, consider WhatsApp Business. It comes with all the features of WhatsApp and helps you connect to your user base easily. For large organizations, there’s WhatsApp Cloud API - a scalable, self-serve application interconnect that makes business and marketing-related tasks a lot easier.
The next frontier in WhatsApp Business is WhatsApp Commerce, where the messaging platform integrates with popular eCommerce platforms to bring you a full fledged catalog of goods and services. Customers can add items in cart and check out directly in WhatsApp. A recent example of this is the popular retail platform JioMart being available in WhatsApp in late August, 2022.
If you are a business owner or a marketing leader, it makes perfect sense to transform your traditional method of reaching out to your key demographic into a fast, secure, and near-instantaneous direct messaging platform like WhatsApp business. WhatsApp Business makes it easier to expand your business both nationally and globally, thanks to its platform-agnostic approach. It also helps cut down typical marketing and customer support costs, integrating seamlessly with other CRM platforms and bots as per your need. Even better, the messaging platform scales with your business and marketing needs, helping you to create a niche of your own to showcase your products and services.
If you are still on the fence about leveraging WhatsApp Business, now is the perfect time to join the bandwagon.