Why companies should be paying more attention to WhatsApp

Nitin Bobba
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WhatsApp has become a powerful full-funnel tool for growth marketers in India. While it always had massive reach, there were limited ways in which brands and companies could leverage that reach. A combination of rising CACs across other channels and continuous improvement of the WhatsApp Business product by Meta have now made it one of the most important channels for companies to master.

But what makes WhatsApp so powerful now? It’s instructive to look at how WhatsApp has evolved in India. The WhatsApp product has evolved in 3 broad phases in India -

WhatsApp 1.0 (2010-2018): Simple messaging solution

The product started as a simple, free-to-use, cross-platform, internet-based chat / messaging app. Key improvements over previous gen messaging solutions such as SMS were emoticons, the ability to share rich media and group chats.

The simplicity and ease of use led to WhatsApp becoming the gateway to the internet for millions of Indians, and over the next few years it amassed pretty much the entire active internet base in India (over 400M DAUs!)

WhatsApp 2.0 (2018-present): WhatsApp Business

Meta acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for ~$19B, and wanted to start monetizing the massive user base that it had. To this end, it launched WhatsApp Business around 2018. Since launch, it has kept adding greater functionality and over time has become the powerful tool that it is.

WhatsApp messages have by far the highest CTRs of any communication channel in India. Open rates can be north of 80%. In comparison, emails for instance, have open rates of sub-10% typically, and SMSs have negligible open rates. This makes it a potent weapon in companies’ arsenals.

A few ways in which growth marketers can leverage WhatsApp Business -

1/ Retargeting: This has been a well known use case on WhatsApp. Let’s take the example of cart abandonment, which is a major pain point for brands. Using WhatsApp, companies can now send contextual messages with dynamic product images, coupon codes and even links to complete payments to nudge users into completing their orders. But it doesn’t end here - users can be sent even more highly contextualised messages. For example, users can be asked to select a reason for not completing their order, and depending on the reason, brands can send context-specific nudges to convert (e.g., discount codes if price was the reason, suggestion of alternate SKUs if design was the reason, and so on)

2/ Engagement and retention: WhatsApp can be leveraged in a variety of ways to engage and retain users. For example, sending post order updates, getting customer feedback, sharing product recommendations, etc.

3/ Acquisition & Activation: While its more straightforward to envision how WhatsApp can be leveraged in the middle and bottom of the customer lifecycle, companies can also use it for top of the funnel lead generation by being creative. One such example is the feminine hygiene brand Sirona Hygiene, which launched a WhatsApp chatbot for period tracking that went viral, and helped the company generate tens of thousands of new leads for virtually no cost. Companies can also capture leads via the usual links and QR codes. (Link to this story)

WhatsApp 3.0 (2022-23 onwards?): End-to-end shopping experience (full-fledged conversational commerce)

Conversational commerce is a buzz word that’s been around for a couple of years now. But what exactly it might look like was unclear…till recently. Earlier this year, JioMart and Meta showed us. Users can now complete the entire purchase journey on WhatsApp itself - from browsing the catalogue, ordering the items and making the payment, all in a single seamless journey. Needless to say, it’s still fairly early days and this will likely undergo a few iterations given it’s a completely new way of shopping. One important product aspect to figure out will be how to make relevant items surface easily as browsing catalogues within WhatsApp is unlikely to be as efficient as on a purpose-built shopping app.

While this feature hasn’t yet been rolled out to all companies yet, it should happen at some point. (Link to the announcement by Meta)

Things to keep in mind for companies

A couple of things that companies should keep in mind

1/ Don’t spam: With great power comes great responsibility, and companies should be careful to not misuse / overuse the channel. Users can easily block businesses, and if a company gets blocked by too many users, Meta will suspend the account. Moreover, CTRs will reduce if a user gets too many messages from the same business.

2/ Personalise: In 2021, this channel might have been a novelty, but today every company is looking at how to better use WhatsApp. This will lead to lowering of CTRs with time as users will stop opening as many Business messages. The key - personalise, personalise, personalise to stand out from the clutter.

These are just a few examples of ways in which WhatsApp can be leveraged.

Would love to chat with founders and operators who are leveraging WhatsApp in unique ways or building products that help other companies leverage the power of WhatsApp. Feel free to reachout!

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