WhatsApp is a platform for instant one-to-one and group messaging. Owned by Meta, it’s the world’s most popular messaging app, with over 2 billion users in June 2022 alone. Whatever your business, customers are likely on WhatsApp.
Personal conversations dominate WhatsApp, but companies are beginning to see the marketing benefits, including:
- Easy access to an audience. WhatsApp users generally have notifications switched on — businesses can contact them instantly.
- Convenient searching. Users can search for businesses by name and phone number, helping shoppers find and contact a company.
- Ability to create a business profile, which helps build trust in your company.
Customer service. WhatsApp offers one-to-one engagement with customers and prospects. For many shoppers, it’s a convenient option for quick answers. Unlike most web chat platforms, WhatsApp does not require an open browser to receive notifications.
And merchants can use the automated “away” and greeting messages to set expectations on response times and provide self-serve options for common queries.
Marketing messages. A primary benefit of a WhatsApp business account to marketers is the ability to send broadcast messages. These are one-to-many communications, similar to SMS and email.
Broadcasts are limited to 256 contacts per list — suitable for communicating with VIP customers or those attending an event — with no restrictions on the number of lists. Small cohort group messages can build community, but they can quickly drift off-topic. You may need to mute notifications.
Businesses with larger lists can send in bulk via the WhatsApp API.
Regardless, treat WhatsApp messages much like SMS — use it sparingly.
Set Up for Business
Use a business phone number for a WhatsApp Business account. This segregates personal and business messages. To do this, you’ll need separate smartphone SIM cards and the ability to access an SMS message to verify the business number.
Once the Business account is up and running, build your profile by adding hours of operation, links, and contact details. Create a catalog of your products or services. And apply for the WhatsApp business directory to help consumers find you on the app.
Before promoting your WhatsApp profile, create away and greeting messages. And set up a range of quick replies — templated answers to save time when responding to common queries.
WhatsApp Business Options
WhatsApp offers two commercial options.
Business App is for small companies. It’s free and offers access to all basic features, including the storefront profile, product catalog, and custom welcome message.
Business Platform is for larger companies. It offers additional messaging features and integration opportunities via the API, such as chatbot functionality and options to send transactional messages (order confirmations, tracking info, verifications). The first 1,000 monthly messages (called “conversations”) are free. After that, a per-conversation fee applies.
A new WhatsApp shopping cart functionality allows users to select products from a business’s on-app catalog and send a single order message.
But end-to-end purchasing is coming. In August 2022 Meta announced an integration with JioMart, an India-based ecommerce company, wherein shoppers can purchase groceries online without leaving the app.