Chatbots have been successfully integrating into the very fabric of eCommerce for a few years now. More and more, customers grow accustomed to the concept, especially since the global pandemic drew many chatbot benefits to the forefront. However, today, the conversation is shifting from web bots to messaging apps and the potential of conversational commerce. First, Facebook Messenger, with its business-friendly approach, was all the hype. Now, with the release of WhatsApp Business API back in 2018 and ever the growing adoption of the app, more and more online businesses turn their efforts toward WhatsApp eCommerce integration.
In this article, we explore different ways an eCommerce company can take advantage of WhatsApp and dab in conversational commerce—be it through the use of a messaging bot or a live chat.
What is WhatsApp Business, the API and How Does it Work?
In order to understand how WhatsApp can benefit your business. it's key to understand the two business solutions: WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API.
WhatsApp Business App
WhatsApp Business App is a free app created with¡ small and medium businesses in mind. It allows them to connect with their potential and existing customers. Because of WhatsApp's privacy regulations having a business profile lets you only contact users who gave you consent to do so or those who initiated the contact.
The key features include:
- Having a verified business profile featuring pertinent information
- Messaging features with automated quick replies, away messages and greetings.
- Conversation labels(e.g., 'new customer' or 'complaint')
- Chat statistics
- WhatsApp web for desktop
WhatsApp Business API
The WhatsApp Business API solution is not an app. It requires a more complex setup that allows you to integrate your WhatsApp Business profile with the tools and systems you are already using or automated conversational assistants. To use this functionality, your eCommerce business needs to apply and be approved first.
Besides all of the perks of the WhatsApp Business App, the API solution has two main messaging functionalities:
- Paid Automated notifications (outbound alerts) known as WhatsApp Template Messages
- Free WhatsApp Session Messages design to enable customer support. This type of message is any message sent and received in reply to a user-initiated conversation. A new session is activated each time a user submits a message/request and lasts for 24 hours. Failing to reply within the given time frame means you have to re-initiate the conversation using the paid WhatsApp template message.
Unlike the WhatsApp Business, the API enables businesses to carry out significantly complex actions and operations, one of which is conversation automation using WhatsApp bots.
Why Implement WhatsApp API for eCommerce?
Before we get to the various applications of WhatsApp Business and the WhatsApp Business API for eCommerce, let's answer the WHY.
Why WhatsApp over website chatbot?
Why WhatsApp over any other messaging app?
While website chatbots are handy when consumers shop seated at a desktop, they are as reliable on mobile, especially compared to an experience of using a messaging platform. That is quite an issue, given that mobile commerce is unstoppably on its journey to the top of the eCommerce ladder.
This is where instant messaging apps come into play.
These apps revolutionized the messaging industry by making texting even more accessible, convenient, and adaptable to user needs. They made the experience even more interactive by enriching the interface with rich media adoption (e.g., gifs, stickers, videos, files, audio, video messages, etc.).
While a decade ago the market was pretty evenly distributed among multiple messaging contenders, not the same can be said today. Since its humble launch in 2009, WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging app, a global market leader boasting 2 billion active monthly users.
That number accounts for a little over 25% of the overall population and an incredible 32,4% of the population aged 13 years and more.
WhatsApp users are not only plentiful, but they are also incredibly active sending over 65 billion messages on a daily basis. In some countries, the active time spent engaging on the app reaches over 20 hours every month.
For an eCommerce company to become available on a platform where consumers already feel at home and comfortable can not only help win their trust but also save significant costs on creating bespoke solutions such as apps.
Instead, WhatsApp allows you to focus on what matters, the quality of customer experience, interactions, and handling of customer queries.
Top WhatsApp eCommerce Use Cases & Benefits
From the first point of contact, communication with customers goes through many different stages. WhatsApp Business API can help you face not one but multiple touch points across the customer journey.
It all starts with the acquisition.
1. Customer Acquisition
First and foremost, the official WhatsApp API offers a great opportunity to capture prospects online more naturally than ever. It enables you to either follow them from the web/mobile browser to the “real world.”There are several different ways you can go about it.
Since to be able to send proactive automated messages with WhatsApp API users to actively opt-in anyway, you have an unprecedented chance to turn legal obligation to a powerful CTA:
- Chat Bubble. Instead of an on-site assistance bot waiting in the corner of the site, you can create a WhatsApp chat bubble or button to invite website visitors to solve their queries using WhatsApp.
- Product/Category Page Button. This way you allow potential customers to receive notifications, news, and updates via a channel they check and use frequently. E.g., your lead can sign up to receive a notification when a product is back in stock!
- Campaign Ads CTA. Last but not least, a great way to drive acquisition is to use the click-to-WhatsApp approach in your paid campaigns. That is, when prospects click on your Facebook or Google ad, instead of a landing page, they will be invited to a WhatsApp conversation that engages them right of the bat, in a familiar environment.
Any of the strategies above provides your business with simple and interactive ways to capture leads that would have otherwise clicked through your campaign or website with any info-capturing interaction.
2. Incentivized Sales
WhatsApp chatbot can help you engage new and existing customers by incentivizing sales.There are two ways to go about it:
- Engage users conversationally by offering discounts inside a bot
- Direct customers from a coupon pop-up or landing page to the bot that will ask prospects a few key questions to activate the voucher in question
Leads will avoid having to pass through awkward processes such as verifying an email address and will be able to obtain instant gratifications with just a few message exchanges.
On the backend, the bot allows your company to keep the vouchers under control by:
- Communicating with the shopping cart and so, tracking if and when a prospective/existing customer uses the voucher
- Following up with the customer when the voucher remains unused, asking why they haven't redeemed it and if it can do anything to assist them
3. Personalized Experiences
When a user agrees to be contacted on WhatsApp, you will automatically obtain the following data:
- Phone Number
- Country (as per the country code on the phone number)
- (Sometimes) WhatsApp User Name
However, if you do require more, simply make that information part of your opt-in. For instance, you can use the opt-in to ask for the city of residence or an actual name instead of relying on the user name.
Hence, based on those variables, you can start personalizing the conversations instantly, either by customer-specific remarks or by sending customers to different dialog flows.
In practice, this translates into greeting users by name; showing them a menu in a different language or different options adjusted to their region or initial messaging before even asking them for any information.
Regardless of how a prospect enters your chatbot, be it from a landing page, website, ad, or otherwise, your bot can immediately provide a personalized experience.
While being on the scene for quite a while, quizzes don't seem to fade away as most trends do. They are consistently among the most popular online experiences with users perceiving them as fun and interactive. Making them part of your eCommerce chatbot is only logical.
The two advantages of having a chatbot quiz inside of a classic one:
- By interacting with the quiz, you automatically generate a lead and collect data
- If the quiz is not just a form of entertainment but aimed to build a more specific customer profile, the bot collects data that will help it hyper-personalize the user's experience in the future
For instance, customers who answer they prefer doing yoga over running can be later retargeted for yoga & meditation content, events or products, and so forth.
5. Product and Purchase suggestions
Though in most cases the user interface allows for it, product recommendations inside a bot are still not that widely used. Still, there is no better place for bespoke recommendations than a one-on-one conversation.
While Facebook Messenger bots allow you to build in product carousel options inside the conversation, in WhatsApp is, for the time being, a little more limited.
Truth be told, when it comes to selling and cross-selling, you really don't need any fancy solutions. The user is there, conversing with your bot already. Just make use of images, gifs send videos of the products, or mobile-responsive URL references… Note: Facebook announced plans for its Product Catalog feature to be extended to WhatsApp Business in the coming months.
Of the mentioned WhatsApp eCommerce use cases, purchase recommendations are yet another step toward hyper-personalizing user interactions by combining the previously collected data with new demands.
6. Help Guides
Online shopping, despite all the other advantages, deprives consumers of examining the merchandise up close or firing up a quick question to a nearby standing sales assistant.
Unfortunately, in most cases, it takes way too long to speak to a real person. Still, an overwhelming 75% of online customers expect to be served within 5 minutes. That's why, despite their occasional developmental shortcomings, chatbots became so popular in eCommerce.
They are able to handle inquiries significantly faster and more efficiently eliminating the wait.
WhatsApp chatbots go a step further because they are not only able to react fast but also anywhere. A conversation that starts online can continue on WhatsApp as the customer leaves his/her desktop. Better yet, it happens in an environment where the user feels comfortable and which is significantly more stable and mobile-friendly than any other website or app bot.
Sounds just like another customer service bot?
A product help guide is not about answering FAQs.
A product guide bot highlights the benefits of the products as well as proactively answers common doubts and questions. For instance, a great application of this guide is in a case where the size plays a crucial role in its use such as purchasing a snowboard, skis, or a bicycle.
7. Product Finder
Another one on our list of WhatsApp eCommerce use cases is product finder. Unlike a help guide, a product finder helps consumers filter the otherwise overwhelming sea of choices based on their preferences in a conversational setting. Shoppers can avoid browsing through hundreds of pages, and instead come to review the products they are interested in quickly and efficiently.
The best way to go about this is to implement a quiz-style product finder with the bot asking a series of questions and guiding your clients to products best suited for them. In this case, you'd implement a “quiz-style” product finder.
8. Abandoned Cart Recovery
Shopping cart abandonment is one of the most prevalent issues online commerce companies face to this day. So much so that in 2018, the overall cart abandonment rate across sectors averaged at 75.6% The usual way to deal with this problem is by sending reminder and re-marketing emails. However, the response and engagement rates of such campaigns are not particularly impressive. Of the 40% of emails opened on average only 21% results in a click AND only 50% of those result in a purchase.
Sure, it's something but marketing on WhatsApp gives you the chance to do even better. In 2018, the global average SMS open rate was still 94% despite most people using messaging apps. On the other hand, campaigns ran on Facebook Messenger noted a 98% open rate WhatsApp, with its 1.6 billion monthly active users is likely to follow, if not surpass this tendency. If 98% of customers who abandoned their cart open and read your message almost instantly upon receiving it, your chances they come back to complete the purchase grow significantly.
9. Transaction Confirmations, Invoices & Notifications
Thanks to WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption, you can send crucial sensitive information to customers instantly and securely without having to worry that the message ends up in the “JUNK” folder by mistake.
Hence, you can be sure your clients are up-to-date and their personal information is protected.
10. Post-Sale Support
Shortly after your customer receives his or her order, you can use your WhatsApp presence to do a post-purchase check-in. Creating and sending out product-specific check WhatsApp template messages can take you a long way as far as the customer experience is concerned.
This WhatsApp eCommerce integration is particularly useful if your product requires how-to or installation instructions.
If the user replies to your paid HSM template message, you can either respond with a bot or transfer them to a live agent. The best part is, if you reply to the customer within the 24-hour customer support window, the bot or human-driven conversation will not cost you anything.
11. Product Life-Cycle offers
A great number of products purchased online have a highly predictable consumption cycle.
You know your customer is running out of product. However, they haven't been reordered yet. Maybe they are busy, maybe they forgot or maybe they are checking other options...
Thanks to your WhatsApp API for eCommerce integrations, your client “serendipitously” receives a template message from you asking “Hi [name], how's your supply of [product] holding up? If you are running low, drop us a message for a quick reorder!” As with the abandoned cart issue, email has been a powerful helper with life-cycle offers. But, as we mentioned WhatsApp messages are checked more frequently and opened with much greater frequency as well as speed.
Your WhatsApp eCommerce integration can help you in 2 possible ways:
- Send timely notifications taking into account average customer reorder cycles OR a personalized reorder cycle of each client.
- Combine replenishment notifications with subscription programs as conversion rates for subscriptions are much higher when customers are already making recurring purchases.
12. Shipping Updates
Did you already ship the purchased product?
Let your customers know instantly by sending a brief WhatsApp notification!
Seems like nothing special?
Unlike the usual email with a tracking number, WhatsApp enables you to send shipping updates every time the package changes location without annoying the customer.
Plus, you are removing the usual friction of opening an email, clicking on a tracking number, and being redirected to an unfamiliar website.
13. Loyalty Programs
Convincing your customers to sign up for your brand new loyalty program is only half of the grand battle. Perhaps even the easier half of the battle since, as observed by Capgemini, 54% of loyalty programs are completely inactive and almost one-third of members quit the programs without ever redeeming any of the advantages and many don't know how many points or advantages they earned.
Your WhatsApp integration could help you automate:
- Point balance notifications
- Gamification (e.g. letting users earn points by solving puzzles or taking quizzes)
- Messages that encourage redemption
- Reward reminders
14. Collect Feedback/Reviews
Feedback and reviews help you sell but collecting them is no easy quest. After the purchase, many consumers no longer bother opening emails that ask for a review. And, very few of those who do open the email bother to click and visit your website to write something - that is unless they had a bad experience.
While some types of people are more likely to write reviews than others, many are deterred by the amount of effort that needs to be put into it, especially if they don't consider leaving a review important.
You can remove a great deal of friction by simply firing out a review request template message that clarifies that all the user needs to do is reply to the message to leave a review.
Think about it! How many more reviews would you submit if it was a matter of typing up or voice recording a short instant message?
What's even more important is that the review is submitted as part of an automated conversation. This allows you to react instantly to negative feedback and send the user down an appropriate dialog flow when the bot detects dissatisfaction.
15. User-Generated Content
User-generated content has been known to have positive effects. But, getting users to generate that content is no easy task.
Because WhatsApp has a built-in camera feature, it makes it much easier to persuade customers to snap a pic or record a video of them using the product and send it to you. The whole process is familiar and simple. No friction to hold them back. Additionally, using WhatsApp makes it easier to approach your customers at the right moment because they are likely to check the messages instantly or almost instantly.
When your WhatsApp chatbot receives a photo, you can send it to your database for review or directly share it on the product page or social media.
16. Unboxing Experiences
- Offer useful product information
- Minimize buyer's remorse as they know what they are getting into
- Drive anticipation
- Increase sales
Using WhatsApp integration you can both share such videos and prompt customers to submit them as well. They can be part of the product help guide or part of a marketing campaign…The key is to send it exactly at the right time:
- To create buzz around for a seasonal event
- As part of the abandoned cart sequence
- After the purchase but before delivery - to build excitement
- Immediately after delivery to encourage customers to submit their own unboxing experiences.
Ecommerce customer service spends a great amount of time answering generic questions such as those about refunds and delivery as well as directing clients to the right products. The vast majority of these queries are straightforward and very repetitive.
Even if you have an FAQ landing page, very few customers bother to go there and prefer to ask.
Having a WhatsApp bot that can answer all the basic questions will help customers avoid browsing pages and pages of FAQs while also taking the pressure off the customer support team.
18. Live Customer Support
But WhatsApp API for eCommerce is not just about chatbots. It is, first of all, a powerful messaging channel that allows you to get in touch with your clients whenever and wherever they are, efficiently.
Hence, don't set your human employees aside. Where your FAQ bot falls short, your live agents can swoop in and save the day.
The FAQ can serve as a screening phase to determine whether the query is basic or serious as well as provide you with key information. The bot can then not only initiate a human takeover but do so by forwarding the query to the right person or department.
19. Multilingual Service
Most online stores serve customers all over the world not only thanks to improving technology but also global infrastructure. So, many online businesses have a good reason to find an easy way to communicate with people that don't speak the company's native language.
WhatsApp is a perfect way to deal with international customers since it's present in 180 countries in 133 of which the app is the messaging leader. And, while WhatsApp helps you reach the location, the WhatsApp bot takes care of the language.
While you won't be able to automate every aspect of the process, you can win over a lot of clients by creating a bot flow in their native language and so help them solve their issues quicker.
These are our WhatsApp eCommerce use cases that have the power to transform and personalize the way you communicate with your client base.
We are sure there are many more applications of the API integrations we haven't mentioned yet. That in itself is a testament to the vast opportunities brought about by WhatsApp, especially when it comes to eCommerce.