In January 2018 came a variation of the instant messaging application focused on companies and small businesses. WhatsApp Business I wanted to be the guru of customer service and care. And four years later, with more than 175 million active users, it seems that it has succeeded and sets a trend by facilitating the birth of other applications that offer the same service. Especially in recent years, in which the pandemic and constant confinements have forced people to stay at home and companies to sell their products and services digitally. What’s behind the boom of the trade by instant messaging? Is it a fashion enriched by the pandemic or is it a model that has come to stay?
“The global context of the pandemic made it clear that companies must have fast and efficient ways to serve their customers and make sales. During these times, WhatsApp became a simple and convenient resource. According to our research, people prefer to communicate with companies by message to receive help and are more likely to make a purchase when they can do so, “they explain from WhatsApp.
The rise of the conversational business
Every customer interaction is part of a conversation. That’s one of the biggest online business lessons in the last two years. “These conversations take place in different channels, of which messaging and chat are preferred for both companies and customers,” explain the Zendesk researchers, who conducted a report titled Messaging in 2020 which analyzes the various communication channels that companies have adopted.
In the report, Zensdesk analysts reveal that while phone and email top the list of companies’ preferred channels for interacting with their customers, the trend is changing. “Although the conversational channels of companies such as SMS, chatbots, voice assistants, messaging applications and chats are not yet as common as the telephone and email, that is about to change ”, they assure. Live chat (that is, instant communication with the customer through text messages in real time) will grow 65% in the next 12 months, the report says, and chatbots and voice assistants will grow 100%. “Customers want answers now, not in 24 hours (like by email) or in a week (mail). And, currently, most companies are not organized to provide that. This speed can only be achieved with real-time interaction platforms, that is, chat and voice, “he explains. in the report César Miguel, director of Innovation Factor at Accor.
The acquisition of courier services is due to many reasons. According to the report, the most popular are the resolution time (which through messaging is much faster than, for example, by mail), 24-hour support (since automated chats can be configured to respond at any time) and more interactions with staff and customers.
This has been proven, above all, by companies and businesses in the retail industry, where conversational commerce emerges alongside support. According to the report, 54% of retail companies use instant messaging (such as WhatsApp Business). They are followed by the entertainment industry with 41%, tourism with 37%, finance with 30% and the media with 27%.
But the most surprising thing is, perhaps, the regions that are riding the wave of business through instant messaging. “In many developing countries, messaging has overtaken websites, emails, and mobile apps to become the channel of digital commerce ”, details the study. Therefore, Latin America leads the percentage of regions that use this service with 32%, followed by Asia with 29%, Europe, the Middle East and Africa with 28% and North America with 19%.
But every novelty brings its own challenges. Diana Helander, marketing director at Twitter, suggests in the report that instant messaging as a business tool is often misunderstood and even misused. “Often times, marketers don’t take advantage of this valuable public conversation to understand customer sentiment. Brands that invest in customer experience can leverage this real-time conversation to inspire product discovery and drive innovation, ”he recommends. Along the same lines, Patrick Nguyén, technological director of the Californian company of services and software customer experience 7.AI, details in the report that as commercial messaging volumes increase, “many companies will face the hardships of higher costs and the degradation of customer experiences that new channels bring. They will have to rethink current voice-centric contact centers and implement the operating systems required to make messaging an effective channel for customer service, ”Nguyén warns.
But back to the advantages, messaging applications have a higher customer satisfaction rate than any other channel: 98%. This places them above the telephone, with 94%, and social networks, with 80%.
WhatsApp Business and its alternatives
One of the advantages of WhatsApp Business is that it works practically the same as WhatsApp: same interface, design, chats and graphics. This allows anyone already familiar with the application to learn how to use the Business tool in a short time. And starting from there, another advantage is that WhatsApp has 2,000 million active users. That, for a business, means potential customers who already use the platform and who can contact any business with a simple chat. But the most important thing, of course, is that it is free and both the client and the company can communicate only with the requirement of having an Internet connection, either with access to a WiFi network or with a basic data plan.
But unlike WhatsApp, the business function is more refined and complex when it comes to image and message exchange. The main differences are in settings, profile, catalogs, and scheduled messages. Here is the step by step of how to configure your account and boost your business by instant messaging.
- Download and open the WhatsApp Business application from Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
- Read the WhatsApp Business Terms of Service and, if you agree, tap “Accept and continue.” If you don’t agree, keep reading and you will find alternatives.
- Select your country from the drop-down list to add the corresponding code.
- Enter your phone number, touch “Done” or “Next” and press “Ok” to receive a 6-digit registration code via SMS or a call.
- Enter the 6-digit code.
- Authorize access to your contacts and photos (this will be useful for the Catalogs section).
- Create your business account, select a business category, and choose a profile photo.
- Tap “Browse” and “Company Profile.” You can add important information about the company, such as the business address, description, hours and more.
- Clever? Start a chat.
In this WhatsApp video, you can learn how to use the Catalogs feature, which helps to display and share your products and services from your business account.
But WhatsApp Business is not the only option. Especially after the latest scandals in which the company has been seen due to privacy issues of its users that have led thousands of people to take refuge in alternative instant messaging networks such as Telegram and Signal. There is good news for them: there are also alternatives to WhatsApp Business. Therefore, if in step 2 you decided that you did not agree with the application’s policies, here you have more options.
Fleeing the universe of Facebook – owner of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp – there are alternatives that are much less known and with a smaller audience, but that meet all the characteristics for online commerce.
- Teams Wire: is the business version of the secure messaging application with end-to-end encryption Wire. The application allows its administrators to add and remove people as well as assign rules to users and invite certain people to specific chats. However, although Wire is a app free, Teams Wire costs five euros per user per month. It is, perhaps, the cost of privacy. You can download it here for android Y here for iOS.
- WeChat: It is the Chinese giant; the Asian WhatsApp that triumphs for its diversity of services. The comparison is fair: the platform has around 1,151 million active users and WhatsApp 2 billion. In recent years, WeChat has evolved so much that it already works as a kind of Facebook, Skype, Slack, Amazon, PayPal and Uber… in the same application. Sure, you have options for businesses too. WeChat Stores allows the user to make purchases online and WeChat Wallet to make payments to sellers. You can download it here for android Y here for iOS.
- Aggity: It is a Spanish platform that in recent years has become very popular among companies and businesses. It owes its reputation to security in terms of data protection. With this instant messaging application, sellers and customers can exchange video calls, voice messages and chatbots for immediate access to information and products. There are no official figures for its user base, although some technology magazines estimated that two years ago it was around 82,000. You can download it here for android Y here for iOS.