WhatsApp Marketing Meet Chatbots: A New Game Changer

Illustration: Carmen Casado
whatsapp marketing

WhatsApp marketing has been efficiently stealing thunder from social media and other online communication strategies for a few years now. Yet it seems the hype is unlikely to wither any time soon. Add chatbots to the mix, and you’re faced with a true marketing game changer. 

But where do you start?

Even with the business features, WhatsApp isn’t the most forthcoming of channels when it comes to advertising.

Can your business marketing operations benefit from a WhatsApp bot? What are the opportunities and challenges you need to be aware of? How do you use WhatsApp for business anyway?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

The Very Brief History of WhatsApp Marketing

While WhatsApp advertising and marketing might feel like they have been around forever, their history is very, very brief and surprisingly recent.

When former Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Acton founded WhatsApp in 2009, the app became insanely popular but remained free of business presence. Even after being acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, its co-founders promised to keep WhatsApp ad-free.

Over the years, WhatsApp unrolled multiple new features to fend off competition like improved group features and a Snapchat-like 24-hour story update, while others (like support for playing Instagram and Facebook videos) were created to improve the integration of the app within the Facebook ecosystem.

In May 2018, Koum announced he was leaving WhatsApp due to clash in the strategy with its parent company, Facebook, which started to push towards business and ad-friendly model. And so, interest in WhatsApp marketing started to pop up along the new business-friendly features:

Why Should You Use WhatsApp Marketing for Your Business?

WhatsApp is the uncontested most popular messaging app. In 2020, the app surmounted its own record of monthly active users, which grew from 1.5 billion in December 2017 to 1.6 billion in April 2019 to 2 billion in April 2020. Currently, WhatsApp is the leading messaging app in 133 countries worldwide:

whatsapp penetration

No other social and messaging app has a comparable reach. Furthermore, WhatsApp users tend to be very active sending over 65 billion messages on a daily basis.

For businesses, WhatsApp offers a product catalogue to choose from that best fit their needs and allow them to connect with their target audience. 

WhatsApp Business App vs. WhatsApp Business API

Before we dive deeper into WhatsApp marketing, it’s crucial to settle the capabilities and differences between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API since these two are very different services.

WhatsApp Business App

WhatsApp Business App is a free (separate) app built to enable small and medium businesses and connect them with their customers. In essence, it allows brands to sort and quickly respond to customer messages. It's definitely an upgrade if you have been relying on WhatsApp web feature only.

Since privacy is still at the core of WhatsApp, you can only contact users who gave you consent to do so or those who initiated the contact. The features include:

  • Business Profile: WhatsApp Business App lets brands create an official business profile featuring relevant information such as the company’s physical address, telephone number, description, email, and link to the website.
  • Messaging tools: WhatsApp Business App allows businesses to set up quick replies, away messages and greetings. 
  • Labels: The app allows you to apply a variety of labels to your active chats. For instance, you can tag a chat as “new customer” or “complaint” to keep an overview of customer requests. You can use pre-set labels or create your own.
  • Statistics: WhatsApp also offers a few basic stats such as how many messages were sent and delivered, and how many were actually opened and read.
  • WhatsApp Web: Brands can send and receive messages with WhatsApp Business on the desktop making the management more business-friendly.

WhatsApp Business API

The WhatsApp Business API is not an app. It requires a complex technical setup that allows you to integrate your WhatsApp business profile with the systems you are already using and use it as an intermediary between your business and customers. Since WhatsApp Business API is still in beta and the process is quite complex, it’s focused on medium and large businesses.

WhatsApp Business API has two main functions each with a specific message type:

  • Notifications (Outbound Alerts) in the form of WhatsApp Template Message: This function allows brands to send customers information-driven notifications. They are subject to a fee and can only be sent if they fulfil pre-defined conditions of the message templates. Pre-approved message templates for notifications include booking reminders or delivery updates. These notifications are manually verified and cannot be used for promotional purposes. Not sure what they look like? Explore our collection of sample WhatsApp template messages.
  • Customer Support in the form of WhatsApp Session Messages:  This function allows you to do exactly what it says — provide customer support. In this case, there is no limit on the number of messages that can be exchanged within a session. A WhatsApp Session message is any message sent and received in response to a user-initiated conversation. A new session is activated each time a user sends you a message/request and lasts for 24 hours from the most recent user message. If you fail to reply within that time frame, the only way to re-initiate the conversation is by using the paid WhatsApp template message.

WhatsApp Business API enables you to carry out significantly complex actions and operations, one of which is building relationships with your target audience through chatbots. 

The best advantage of the API is the fact you can design and make WhatsApp bots to automate the most common processes and requests which your customers experience.

You can use bots to collect feedback or have customers and potential customers fill out forms through conversation. Most importantly, you can seamlessly extract the submitted data and update them to your CRM, excel sheets and other databases.

Game Changing WhatsApp Chatbots

Chatbots on WhatsApp not only allow you to get in touch with your clients and prospects where they feel the most comfortable. They also allow you to automate that communication.

We are in the midst of the experience economy. Customers are much more demanding of brands and businesses than they used to be. In fact, many put the experience of interacting with a business higher on their value ladder than the price tag.

Advancing technology made everything faster. Hence, in this day and time, consumers expect timely personalized attention, instant assistance as well as memorable interactions.

Chatbots have given businesses the opportunity to keep up and automate while keeping personalization at heart. Better yet, users are predicting a number of helpful chatbot uses:

The ability to automate key business processes while maintaining a human touch on the most popular messaging app in the world make bots one of WhatsApp marketing tools with the greatest potential.

What does it Take to Create a WhatsApp Bot?

The process of creating a functional bot is a bit time consuming but it’s definitely worth it.

1. Get WhatsApp API Approval 

Well, naturally, you will need to apply for the official WhatsApp Business API. As mentioned, the API is still in BETA mode so WhatsApp currently aims it at medium and enterprise companies. The process involves submitting your company name, URL as well as a name and contact information for a company representative and can take up to 4 weeks.

You can do this on your own or have your WhatsApp Business Solution Provider — which can be your chatbot building platform — assist you in the process. For instance, Landbot can act as a managing intermediary, overseeing the application and setup.

2. Pick A Chatbot Builder

It’s highly recommended you use a bot builder when creating a chatbot for WhatsApp as it significantly simplifies the whole process.

For example, Landbot offers a simple drag-and-drop interface that lets you build and test your dialogue flow before launching. You are able to introduce 3rd party integrations (Slack, Google Analytics, Zapier, MailChimp, etc) and even enable human agent takeover without need for programming skills.

Furthermore, the builder enables you to centrally manage and analyze all the conversations and collected data.

Streamlining WhatsApp bot creation through a builder saves you time as well as a number of technical complications.

3. Keep the Conversation at the Heart of Your Bot

WhatsApp chatbots are no different from the rest of conversational interfaces. They should make users feel comfortable and at ease. Hence, abiding by the rules of conversation should never suffer on account of your final goal.

Examples of WhatsApp Marketing Campaigns 

There are a number of creative WhatsApp marketing strategies you can use to get the most of the official API. Here are Real WhatsApp bot examples of brands from all over the world that used WhatsApp to fulfil their marketing and sales goals.

Tokopedia: Removing Friction to Improve Customer Satisfaction

Tokopedia, the largest online marketplace in Indonesia, serves millions of users and vendors across Indonesia. The brand uses a dynamic one-time password (OTP) validation to provide security and prevent fraud. However, they experienced barriers with SMS bounces that had a huge negative impact on their response rates and led to customer dissatisfaction.

The brand decided to implement WhatsApp API. Their communication via the messaging app saw a 58% higher delivery rate compared to standard texts and 10% increase in one-time password success rate.

Hellmann’s: Inspiring New Ways to Use Your Product

Back in 2014, Hellmann’s wanted to make Brazilian customer base think of mayonnaise as a cooking ingredient. They also realized WhatsApp was the best channel to reach their audiences at home as over 66% of Brazil's population are active WhatsApp users.

People who wanted to take part provided Hellmann’s with their phone number online (1 in 2 website visitors did!). Next, real chefs got in touch with them and helped them to create a recipe with ingredients they already had at home. Over 13000 people participated and the campaign earned a customer approval rate of 99.5%.

Absolut Vodka: Creating a Memorable Brand Persona to Build Hype

Absolut Vodka pulled an epic marketing stunt when launching a new limited collection “Absolut Unique.” To celebrate the launch, the brand organized an exclusive party.

However, only 2 tickets were offered to the general public. The stunts? Anyone who wanted to go to the party had to message Absolut’s virtual bouncer “Sven” on WhatsApp and convince him they deserve the tickets. Besides being incredibly innovative and interactive the campaign ended up producing hilarious results.

The campaign ran for three days, the brand interacted with over 600 users and brought and earned over 1000 user-generated material in forms of images, videos, and voice recordings.

What Next?

WhatsApp is on a trajectory to becoming one of the most potent marketing channels on the market. You can use WhatsApp to provide support but also drive sales and your marketing campaigns.

Plus, consumers are hungry for comfortable and frictionless communication with their favorite businesses. Hence, catching the rising wave of chatbot marketing on WhatsApp can give you a significant competitive advantage. 

Whether your work in eCommerce, real estate, education or travel, WhatsApp can help you create a more personal and pleasant experience for your customers. 

Get a head start today!