Conversational marketing is on the rise, driven largely by consumers’ increasing expectations for convenience and tailored digital experiences. In fact, 90 percent of global consumers say they’ll spend more with companies that personalise the service they offer.
Coupled with recent government- and self-imposed restrictions on in-person shopping, more brands than ever before are turning to WhatsApp and similar messaging platforms to interact with customers in meaningful ways.
Today, more than five million brands are active on WhatsApp Business. That’s a large market, ripe for engagement. In this article, we’ll establish the growing importance of WhatsApp across business functions (not just marketing), showcase the ways some brands are using the app, and highlight a few innovative tips for making the most of the network.
The benefits of using WhatsApp for business
For brands that use WhatsApp to engage with customers, there are a number of clear benefits.
Expand your global reach. WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app worldwide, has upward of two billion active users across more than 180 countries. With a potential audience that large, it’s easy to engage with new prospects that may not yet be aware of all your business has to offer.
Improve the customer experience. Research from Zendesk found that leading companies offer customer support across twice as many channels as their peers. If you are looking to expand your opportunities to support customers, WhatsApp provides a seamless platform for doing so.
Enhance employee satisfaction. WhatsApp’s messaging capability can also be a win for your internal team as customer support personnel report that they are 50 percent more likely to want to engage with customers via messaging platforms versus more traditional methods because it affords them the freedom to multitask.
Increase profitability. When customer service is streamlined, operating expenses often shrink. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 40 percent of customer service will go from a major organisational expense to a significant profit driver as direct messaging streamlines sales pipelines.
16 brands that demonstrate how to expertly use WhatsApp for business
Brands are using WhatsApp in a variety of ways that expand their customer-facing and internal capabilities. The following examples highlight use cases in customer service, financial services, marketing, human resources and pipeline growth.
- Vodafone, a German telecommunications company, has embraced WhatsApp for customer messaging, reaching more than 200,000 customers via this channel each month. Their artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, TOBi, recognises more than 250 customer needs and will only pass requests over to employees if it encounters an issue it is not equipped to solve. More than half of these interactions result in a solution for the customer, removing the need for live customer service support in many cases.
- Estée Lauder was the first major beauty brand to use WhatsApp to offer personalised skincare consultations for customers. Liv, an AI chatbot, was developed in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to replace over-the-counter consultations customers previously had in department stores. These digital conversations help customers understand how to use the company’s products and gather tips for maintaining an effective skincare regimen.
- Nissan Saudi Arabia, looking to engage younger customers and reduce its reliance on call centres, began using WhatsApp to handle inquiries and nurture sales. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, people under 30 years old age make up nearly three-fourths of the population. To reach that market, Nissan developed an automated chatbot powered by WhatsApp that could answer simple customer questions without the need to transfer them to the call centre. After the launch of the chatbot, leads increased 390 percent and inbound calls were reduced by 33 percent .
- One of Spain’s leading insurance providers, Mutua Madrileña, offers personalised messaging for customers via WhatsApp on more than 1,000 topics. In the first six months of using this new channel for customer support, the company had received nearly half a million messages, making up 23 percent of digital customer inquiries. In late 2020, the brand became the first insurer in the country to allow customers to submit automobile accident claims via their WhatsApp virtual assistant, resulting in a process that is now 30 percent faster.
- WhatsApp banking is now also a thing. Many banks, primarily in Europe, the Middle East and Asia are using the app to make banking simpler and more convenient for customers. India’s ICICI Bank and Pakistan’s HBL Bank both use the app to answer customer questions and to conduct basic transactions.
- Mukuru, one of the largest money transfer providers in Africa, realised more than $1 million in reduced SMS costs after implementing customer service via WhatsApp. It also improved the reliability and security of wire transfers for the financially excluded communities it serves across the continent. With WhatsApp available, consumers can reduce their dependence on mobile banking apps that traditionally use more unpredictable unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) protocols that don’t require an internet connection. Since the introduction of WhatsApp, the brand’s customer satisfaction has jumped from 65 percent to 80 percent .
- Tikkie, a Dutch peer-to-peer payment app (similar to Venmo or Zelle), created their own set of 11 stickers for their WhatsApp users. The stickers allowed customers a fun way of communicating with each other to thank someone for paying or to remind them to do so.
- Absolut Vodka, a Swedish spirits brand, used WhatsApp to publicise an in-person product launch event in Argentina. Customers were encouraged to message a chatbot doorman named Sven to try to convince “him” they deserved one of two available tickets. This campaign resulted in more than 1,000 messages from 600 individuals over three days.
- Carrefour Group, a French-based big box store chain, uses WhatsApp to provide digital coupon catalogues to its client base. These offers were previously printed, but the company wanted to offset those costs and have better targeting capabilities based on customers’ locations and preferences. By inputting their zip code into a chatbot, customers can be directed to their nearest store and also receive tailored deals straight to their phone. According to Meta, 45 percent of users now engage with the digital catalogue versus 10 percent who open the catalogue via email.
- The Brazilian arm of Hellmann’s, a mayonnaise brand, launched a campaign via WhatsApp to provide its users with on-demand cooking advice delivered by culinary professionals. The campaign, called WhatsCook, allowed customers to converse in real time with chefs to get detailed instruction, answers to their questions, or specific assistance for preparing their meals.
- Adidas’ 100 percent Unfair Predator campaign, launched via WhatsApp, helped the brand engage with a core set of customers: footballers. Users were allowed to chat with Adidas to request a professional athlete join their local teams for a single game. For the lucky teams chosen, Adidas-sponsored players showed up in the company’s new Predator 20 Mutator shoes.
- BASF Group, a German chemical production company, uses WhatsApp to engage potential recruits. Anilina, a digital career assistant in the form of a chatbot, helps to answer candidates’ questions quickly and on the spot. For more involved conversations, candidates can reach out to representatives Monday through Friday via WhatsApp chat.
- Logistics company Deutsche Post DHL Group allows candidates to apply to open positions directly from WhatsApp, eliminating the need to fill out lengthy and cumbersome online forms. The company deployed the chatbot to reach their target candidates where they are via a more user-centric application process.
- French newspaper Le Monde used WhatsApp’s status feature to target customers in French-speaking African countries. The company posts content to its status, which is viewable for 24 hours (similar to an Instagram Story), three to four times a day. About 20 percent of the brand’s follower base typically consumes this content, and over time, Le Monde Afrique has grown its WhatsApp followers by 10,000.
- Triya, a Brazilian beachwear brand, uses WhatsApp to converse with its customers and also to send order information like receipts and tracking information. After doubling down on their presence on the app, the company 5Xed their annual sales.
- Centaline Property, one of Hong Kong’s largest real estate brokerages, uses WhatsApp to qualify leads more quickly and increase their sales pipeline. The company integrated the network with its property recommendation engine to allow leads to be funnelled to the appropriate agent, along with each customer’s information and communication history. The use of key WhatsApp features like List Messages and Reply Buttons help Centaline Property personalise their outreach, resulting in a 27 percent increase in sales conversions.
Inventive ways to use WhatsApp for business
WhatsApp is more than just a place to answer one-off customer questions. Inspired in part by the brands above, consider these ideas for integrating WhatsApp into your social media, sales or customer service strategies.
- Optimize your profile. Use your WhatsApp business profile to share important information about your brand and provide answers to common customer questions.
- Use digital catalogs. Create a digital catalogue to help your customers discover your products or services.
- Support customers. You can significantly reduce your reliance on call centres by outsourcing simple customer requests and queries to a WhatsApp-powered chatbot or digital assistant.
- Share content via the Status feature. Use the Status feature to share content the same way you already do in your Facebook or Instagram Stories.
- Develop creative marketing campaigns. Engage customers with an out-of-the box marketing campaign.
- Replicate core business processes. Identify key areas of your business that might be possible to replicate on WhatsApp.
- Level up with ads. Use Facebook and Instagram ads that click to WhatsApp to initiate customer conversations that lead to sales.
Conversational marketing is here to stay. The majority of customers expect it, and companies that strategically engage their audiences via channels like WhatsApp are better positioned to take advantage of the growth it makes possible.
If you’re looking for even more opportunities to use social messaging to build stronger customer relationships, this interview with Martha O’Byrne-O’Reilly, head of messaging developer partnerships at Meta, should give you some ideas.