Since it first launched, WhatsApp has quickly taken over SMS as the most preferred form of messaging among Indians. WhatsApp currently has 225+ million users in India, which is around half of the total number of internet users in the country. It a mobile app that’s here to stay in India.The growing number of Indians using WhatsApp can be attributed to the sudden drop in data costs and the introduction of low cost smartphones. Because of this, the app quickly became popular among Indians of all ages and economic backgrounds as it offered a free, simple way to connect with each other. But WhatsApp wasn’t just used for personal conversations among friends and families. For a long time, owners of small businesses like grocery stores and tailors used the app informally to communicate with their customers. Taking notice of this huge potential, WhatsApp launched WhatsApp for Business, a feature which can help brands engage with India’s next billion internet users. This new feature aims to simplify the process for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) to connect with their customers.
WhatsApp for Business is currently only available as an Android app which can be downloaded for free from the Play Store. iPhone users will have to wait a little while longer until WhatsApp for Business rolls out an iTunes app as well. WhatsApp for Business is exclusively for business owners to communicate with their customers. In other words, businesses will use WhatsApp for Business to speak to their customers who will receive these messages on their regular WhatsApp account. To register on it, businesses will need a number that isn’t connected to their personal WhatsApp account. If you don’t have a separate business number, you will need to either get one or transfer your personal number to your WhatsApp for Business account. Once the app verifies your number, you can start setting up your business profile and begin communicating with customers.
WhatsApp for business looks almost identical to the regular WhatsApp, however, there are a few key differences. A number of tools have been added to the business app, facilitating easier communication for business users.
Once on the app, WhatsApp allows you to create a ‘Business Profile’ on your account that needs to contain important information such as your business’s email ID, contact number and address. There is also a location feature which allows business to locate their store on the map. Filling in this information will help users understand your business better. Over time Whatsapp also aims to verify each business and link their FB profiles as well, so that only authenticated businesses and stores can reach out to their customers.
WhatsApp for Business also makes it very simple to engage with your customers, even if your consumer base grows very large. The ‘Messaging Tools’ feature allows you to create message templates which can be sent out to your customers automatically. ‘Quick Replies’ allows you to set message templates to questions that your customers frequently ask, so you can easily respond to them. These include ‘thank you’ messages every time your customers order something or details about your products and prices. You can also set up ‘Greetings’ messages which are sent when you are first interacting with a customer and ‘Away’ messages which are sent when you are unable to respond to them at that time.
When Whatsapp for Business was first showcased to our team at the FB SME Council in India, it was made abundantly clear that it is not going to serve as a bulk/promotional messaging service. The intent is to provide customers the convenience to reach brands and vice versa. So its ideally meant to keep in touch with existing customers or leads.
One of the key features WhatsApp for Business offers is an easy way for business owners to understand how well their messages are performing. For now, the current version of WhatsApp for Web offers basic statistics such as the number of messages delivered and number of messages actually opened. The data collected from these statistics can offer business owners invaluable information on the efficacy of their message strategies. This information allows them to identify the type of content their target audience will find engaging. This can help them come up with more targeted message strategies that will resonate better with their audience. While the current statistics offered are very straightforward, future updates of WhatsApp for Business might include more detailed statistical tools.
One of the biggest hurdles that WhatsApp for Business faces is that non-business users might not like receiving business messages in their WhatsApp inbox. Most of our SMS inboxes are filled with promotional messages from businesses with barely any messages from our actual contacts. With the introduction of WhatsApp for Business in India, especially since it’s free, these businesses might start using WhatsApp instead to message people. Because WhatsApp is such a personal form of communication, the fear of spam is ever-present, with users expressing concern over their WhatsApp inbox also becoming flooded with promotional messages.
However, WhatsApp has ensured that it is putting the users first even with the introduction of WhatsApp for Web. If users are receiving too many messages from a business or they aren’t interested in the business, they can easily block the business or report it as spam. The rigorous verification procedure ensures that the business on the app are legitimate, reducing the chances of spam. WhatsApp is also introducing a verification badge against businesses if their WhatsApp for Business number matches the number registered against their business. This feature will help users understand which businesses are authentic.
After the success of an initial beta version of the service, WhatsApp launched the WhatsApp Payments feature in India for Android during early February of 2018. This feature is very similar to other digital payments services like PayTM as it operates through the United Payments Interface (UPI) and supports most of the major banks used in India. Once you have verified your bank account details, you can directly transfer money from your account to other users through WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Payments and WhatsApp for Business in India are two new features which can work together in synergy. It can enable small business to reach out to their customers who can then pay for their products or services directly through WhatsApp. Since the upper limit for the amount of money which can be transferred through WhatsApp Payments is set at Rs. 5,000, it makes its features best suited for SMEs. For example, using WhatsApp for Business and WhatsApp Payments, users can easily order and pay for their weekly groceries from the local convenience store. This can go a long way in helping small business improve their sales.
As the name suggests, WhatsApp for Business works like a typical WhatsApp account but has additional privileges that are tailor-made for businesses. Aptly titled “WhatsApp Business”, the app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Once downloaded, you can register with a phone number that is exclusively used for your business. You can then stay connected with your consumers with interactive tools that let you respond to messages easily, sort your messages as per your preferences and automate your replies, among other functional tasks.
Just like the regular app, WhatsApp for Business is also free. The only expense you will face is setting up a distinctive mobile number that will be used exclusively for your business. You will need this to register your business on the app. However, WhatsApp may begin charging businesses in the future for these services.
You begin by downloading the app titled “WhatsApp Business” from the Google Play Store. Once you agree with the terms and conditions, you will have to register with a phone number used exclusively by your business. Once the number is verified, you can begin using the app to stay connected with your consumers.
WhatsApp for Business is currently available only on the Google Play Store. You will need an Android device to download and use it. However, the app is under development for iPhone users and will be available on iStore soon.
Apart from it being exclusively designed for businesses, WhatsApp Business has a distinctive feature called “Business Profiles”. This tab helps consumers generate more information about the business such as the official email ID, website and store address. This tab also accommodates a small description of the business to give consumers detailed insights into the kind of products or services offered.
WhatsApp for Business also offers a plethora of handy messaging tools to make it easier for to interact with consumers by sorting messages, creating automated replies and designing frequentlyused templates for messaging.
There are many messaging tools available in WhatsApp Business that make it easier for businesses to interact with their consumers. For example, you have a “Quick Replies” option to send instant answers to frequent questions. You can also create a template to greet your consumers with a greetings message or a thank you note. Additionally, you can create a customised “Away Message” to let your customers know you are currently not available and will get back to them shortly.
Apart from tools for easy execution, WhatsApp Business also offers statistical data of your messaging pattern. You can keep a tab on the number of messages sent, delivered and opened to give you a fair idea of how consumers are responding to your messages.
While WhatsApp for Business is still in its nascent stage, it definitely has the potential to explode in India. Evolving digital marketing techniques in tier 2 and tier 3 cities should definitely begin to utilise WhatsApp for Business in their strategies. For small businesses, it could prove to be an important tool to help them expand their profits in the face of growing competitions from larger corporations. We also understand that APIs to allow for managing larger number of conversations is on the cards so the future of Whatsapp for Business is indeed exciting.