WhatsApp marketing has been efficiently stealing thunder from social media and other online communication strategies for a few months now.
It seems the hype is unlikely to wither any time soon. In fact, WhatsApp for Business is only in the first stages of its promising rein.
On top of all that, chatbots are joining the party!
But where does that leave you?
Even with the business features, WhatsApp isn’t the most forthcoming of channels when it comes to advertising.
Can your business benefit from this surging trend? What are the opportunities and challenges you need to be aware of? Can you build a chatbot WhatsApp will accept and support?
Let’s take it from the top!
Let me start by saying:
That would be 1.6 billion users for WhatsApp spread over 180 of 193 world’s countries. Plus, as of January 2019, WhatsApp is the leader in 133 of these countries:
No other social and messaging app has comparable reach. Furthermore, WhatsApp users tend to be very active sending over 65 billion messages on a daily basis.
So, talking about WhatsApp means talking about worldwide communication revolution.
Still, to grasp the full potential of the platform, it is also important to consider mobile texting stats in general.
- 73% of survey respondents of 2018 report said they open every single text message they receive (Esendex, 2018)
- 62% of smartphone owners said they check their phones immediately when they wake up; 79% check them within 15 minutes of waking up (Text Savvy, 2017)
- Dark Social sharing (sharing via private channels like messaging apps and email) takes up a significant percentage of social shares. Since dark social is hard to track, the stats are hard to come by and differ greatly. For instance, according to 33Across’ Tynt platform from 2014, Dark Social represents about 71% of all social sharing. RhythmOne (2017) claims dark social accounts for 84% of online sharing. Regardless of the lack of statistics, it is important to acknowledge the fact that a lot of content is shared on private channels. How often do you share something via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or other favorite chat? Exactly!
- 90% of surveyed customers prefer being contacted by messaging over phone calls. (Text Savvy, 2017)
- 66% of consumers would prefer to contact or be contacted by brands via messaging over any other channel and 85% want the text message communication with businesses to be a two-way conversation. (Twilio Mobile Communications Report, 2016)
- 67% of messaging app users that already do message with businesses expect to message with business more in the coming years; 53% of them are more likely to choose and shop with a business if direct messaging is available. (Facebook Messaging Survey)
- SMS has a 209% higher response rate than calls, email or Facebook. (SMS Business Trends 2018)
While the stats refer more to texting or messaging in general, they clearly demonstrate consumers’ positive attitudes towards messaging as a key communication channel. Moreover, according to GSMA Global Mobile Economy Report (2018), smartphone adoption and improving mobile data coverage is on an upward trajectory
Some regions such as North America are significantly above the world average:
Combined with the worldwide reach of WhatsApp messenger, it’s easy to see from where the hype for WhatsApp marketing strategies sprouted.
While WhatsApp campaigns 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:
- January 2018 – Launch of FREE WhatsApp Business app for Android in selected markets
- August 2018 – Introduction of revenue-generating WhatsApp Business API
- April 2019 – Roll out of WhatsApp Business app for iOS worldwide
- 2020 – Roll-out of ads in WhatsApp Status Stories
Before we dive deeper into WhatsApp marketing, it’s crucial to settle the capabilities and differences between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API. These two are very different services.
WhatsApp Business 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.
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:
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.
Quick replies: Save and use frequently sent WhatsApp messages with a click. For instance, you can save “/thanks” as “Thank you for choosing us! We’ve received your order. We will ship it out within three working days. Once your package is on the way, we’ll send you your tracking number to keep tabs on it!”
Away messages: Set up automated messages to be sent out when you are not available.
Greetings: Create an automatic greeting message to send to new contacts. For instance, you can use it to briefly introduce your brand and the services you provide.
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.
WhatsApp also offers a few basic stats such as how many messages were sent and delivered, and how many were actually opened and read.
Brands can send and receive messages with WhatsApp Business on the desktop making the management more business-friendly.
WhatsApp business offers you three fundamental ways to reach and interact with your customers through messages, videos and photos:
- Customer Support through One-to-one Chat
In line with the general WhatsApp functionalities, you can message with customers on your contact list directly in a one-on-one conversation. You can use written messages, voice memos, calls, and video calls.
- Notifications through Broadcast lists
You are able to send a bulk message to your “broadcast list” meaning anyone who saved your number in their contacts. These users will see this message as a normal message between you and them. Similar to the concept of BCC function in emails, if the user replies to your broadcast message it will only be visible to you not to anybody else on the list.
Broadcast lists have a limit of 256 people.
- Community building through Groups
WhatsApp Business allows you to create groups each limited to 256 members maximum. Within the group, you can share information in the form of messages, images, videos, and any other marketing materials. Each member can see the responses of other members and is free to contribute to the conversation.
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 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:
Format: WhatsApp Template Message
This function allows brands to send customers information-driven notifications. They are subject to a fee and can only be sent it they fulfill 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. If it’s been more than 24-hours since the customer last responded you, you can only use this type of message to contact them or the message will fail.
Format: WhatsApp Session Message
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.
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.
You can either wait for users to contact you or use the paid messages to invite people to respond.
WhatsApp Business API enables you to carry out significantly more complex actions and operations:
- Customer Support
Like with WhatsApp Business App, you can use the API integration to provide customer service. Clients can use WhatsApp inquire about delivery, purchase details, return policy and so forth on the go.
The difference is, the API allows you to seamlessly integrate your existing CRM tools such as SalesForce, Intercom, Landbot or any other in-house software.
- Transactions & Online Payments
Another great use case is enabling purchases and bookings via the messaging app by integrating WhatsApp API Business Client with your internal API.
Alternatively, you can facilitate payments by providing payment links that are dynamically generated by a 3rd party service such as RazorPay.
- Invoicing & Delivery Updates
API can be also used to automatically send purchase invoices, bill details, shipment details or automated delivery updates or any other kind of reminders (events, tasks, deadlines)
- Navigation & Discovery
If you feel up to it, you can also put artificial intelligence to use as well. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can help you understand the context of client/lead messages and help them discover relevant products and services from your offering.
However, creating NLP that is intelligent enough is quite a challenge, technically and financially.
- Build Relationships through Chatbots:
The best advantage of WhatsApp API is the fact you can design 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.
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:
In some domains such as online commerce, chatbots are proving to be the most helpful of options:
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.
The process of creating a functional bot is a bit time consuming but it’s definitely worth it.
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 focuses on 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 chatbot platform assist you in the process. For instance, Landbot manages the WhatsApp verification process from start to finish by providing you with a personal Customer Success Manager. Your Landbot representative will:
- Let WhatsApp know who you are and what do you plan to do with the official API integration
- Once you are approved, request activation of your WhatsApp number(s). The process requires a PIN code exchange and integration of your phone number(s) into your Landbot account.
- Ask you to create and submit WhatsApp message templates (only if you intend to send messages or reply after 24 hours).
It’s highly recommended to 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 to for programming skills. Furthermore, the builder enables you to centrally manage and analyze all the conversations and collected data.