WhatsApp is a popular messaging service created in 2009 that has experience exponential growth. In 2017, worldwide usage has more than 1 billion users per day according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the UK, 58% adults aged 18+ were active on WhatsApp putting it behind only Facebook, YouTube and Facebook Messenger amongst the most used social networks.
WhatsApp has been unofficially used by companies in international markets where online activity is dominated by mobile use to allow for direct messaging to a company representative. The convenience for customers to have a direct contact to message rather than email or phone can be very helpful for small businesses with regular customers, however for larger companies this was logistically impractical.
This year WhatsApp has attempted to formalise business activity by allowing business owners to create official business profiles, much akin to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, with standard information such as address, description, email address and website. By using the WhatsApp Business app, you’ll have access to new features such as statistics, organisation tools to label chats, add status’ for your customers to see, create group messages and develop automatic responses to frequently asked questions.
Why Use WhatsApp For Business
WhatsApp is a good tool to allow direct messaging to a company representative during defined hours. Much like the chat boxes that many websites now use, having a direct line on WhatsApp allows a customer to have an instant conversation and get a direct answer rather than searching online or calling in.
For the business, you have the opportunity to create a personal connection with a customer through a private conversation, providing the opportunity to increase retention and overall sales through meaningful reactions.
Additionally, the ability to contact previous customers directly with new offers and sales through text offers a direct sales funnel. In order to use this feature, users will have had to have made contact with the business and agreed to be contacted by the business. No cold messages are allowed.
Some Logistical Pitfalls to Keep in Mind
Currently the WhatsApp Business app is only available through the Google Play store, meaning any business must have an Android phone. This will leave iPhone and other smartphone users in the dark for the foreseeable future, although there are rumours that the iOS app is in development. See the following articles on Tech Radar and WABETAINFO for more information.
Like the normal version of WhatsApp, a business profile can only be associated with one phone number. Essentially this means one phone will need to be used to manage the entire account. This could either lead to having a dedicated phone that is used by multiple team members or one dedicated resource to answering WhatsApp messages. Chances are you will need to set some limits on when your business will be available to respond to messages as 24/7 instant messaging for small businesses is not realistic.
Official Business Verification
Similar to other social networks, WhatsApp goes through a verification process and indicates a business’ status with a grey or green check mark. To gain a grey checkmark and the status of a regular “Business Account” WhatsApp will need to verify your phone number. To obtain “Official business account” status and a green checkmark, a business’ brand will need to be notable along with a variety of undisclosed factors. As the WhatsApp business verification is a pilot program, the business verification is currently limited to a small number of businesses.
WhatsApp Business API for Medium and Large Businesses
The basic setup for WhatsApp Business is largely geared towards small businesses. For larger businesses, WhatsApp has also developed their WhatsApp Business API. Using the API businesses can integrate their messaging with their own CRM systems, create programmatic workflows and much more.