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WhatsApp is no longer just for messaging and calls. This app, which is part of Facebook, has become an engagement and commerce tool for entrepreneurs and small business owners alike. It can provide another channel for brand building, customer interaction and intelligence, and revenue opportunities.
Designed around the idea that today’s consumers and businesses prefer mobility, WhatsApp empowers companies to move into the mobile environment through several different touch points.
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Product catalog creation
Facebook introduced the product catalog for WhatsApp Business users in 2019. You can create an online catalog of your products that customers can browse through the app. You have the ability to add significant content that helps shoppers learn more about each product, helping to inform and encourage their purchase. This information can include elements such as product name, product description, a URL link, product SKU and even an image of each item.
For small businesses that have yet to develop a real web presence, this can help you get in front of customers with a minimum of effort. It’s especially helpful for those businesses just starting out that may be only known through a local kiosk, farmer’s market, or some other small offline following. Appreciative, loyal customers will find it easier to keep buying from these brands while simultaneously easily promoting them within their social circle, thus broadening the brand’s reach.
Beyond just browsing and learning about your products, shoppers can immediately click on one or more items, add them to a shopping cart on the app and complete a purchase.
WhatsApp Business added this functionality in 2020 and plans to launch more payment tools in 2021. That would mean the entire shopping process could be completed within the messaging window of this app.
Conversations while shopping
WhatsApp is propelling the conversational commerce concept. That’s when companies use interactive media (like WhatsApp) to communicate with customers throughout the purchase process. You may see your response and engagement rate increase simply by switching from phone calls, which often go unanswered, to instant messaging, which often feels less intrusive to customers.
Not only do they know who is contacting them, but they also retain more control over the conversation with your brand. It is also an easier and more cost-effective way to engage with international customers, where phone calls may prove either cost-prohibitive or impractical.
Conversational commerce differs from promotional messaging. It focuses on dialogue that helps your company build relationships with customers, thus creating a conversation during all parts of the customer purchase journey, from need recognition all the way through to purchase decision (and even repurchase).
WhatsApp provides multiple ways to start these conversations, including messaging templates that guide you through the most effective dialogue strategies. For example, thoughtful approaches to encouraging a conversation include providing space for customers to ask questions about products or services, giving them order updates and confirmations on shipping and delivery, and offering answers to basic inquiries about business hours and similar questions. You can also use the app to share information on upcoming offers or to deliver personalized messages and deals tied to a customer’s birthday or anniversary.
WhatsApp API for more complex features
Beyond WhatsApp Business, you can explore the paid version known as the WhatsApp Business API, which is designed for larger businesses and businesses seeking enhanced sophistication in messaging. This version offers an extensive array of additional features, including the product ordering and order checking.
The API includes integration with Facebook advertising tools so that targeted audience members can contact your brand directly through a paid social media ad. Since it is an API, you can integrate with other third-party companies to further extend the power of WhatsApp Business. You can optimize your business profile page with additional content, such as a business description, contact information (address, email address, and website URL), and a cover photo.
Additionally, the WhatsApp API delivers more robust metrics about your audience in the app. In turn, this intelligence can help your marketing team develop more impactful messaging, campaigns, and product displays.
An internal opportunity
Although WhatsApp Business is primarily an external tool to use with leads and existing customers, the app also offers internal applications to help make workflows easier for your team members. It’s a simple tool that your employees may already use to communicate outside of work, which makes it even easier to deploy with little to no pushback on having to use another tool.
Consider putting WhatsApp to work within your company by developing specific groups, such as a sales group or marketing group. That way, your teams can share information through instant message, rather than an email chain. Many individuals prefer to use this immediate communication channel, so it makes sense to introduce it within the work environment.
New business territories
WhatsApp is a tool that helps your business move into new territories with a simpler commerce infrastructure. This can be an ideal and cost-effective way to expand into new growth areas for your startup or small business. It offers a unique business model that suits unprecedented times and physical business limitations.
It could mean using WhatsApp Business as a booking or consultation platform for a service-based business or for deliveries from a restaurant or retailer without a physical storefront. It can also assist with internal growth, providing a channel to help your employees and outsourced team members stay connected.