Two billion people use WhatsApp now, making it one of the world’s most popular instant messaging tools.
Knowing its power, Facebook has been on a journey to commercialise its $19 billion acquisition by making it as attractive as possible to brands and marketers.
Fast-forward to 2020 and WhatsApp is in pole position to lead the future of marketing via instant messaging – along with Messenger and Instagram.
But what do marketers and business owners need to know to make WhatsApp a success? And what does the future hold for the platform? Allow me to explain below.
1. When it comes to WhatsApp, you have two options as a brand
These two options largely depend on the size of your business and your aims. The first is the WhatsApp Business App, which is a tool that’s mainly targeted at SMEs.
WhatsApp for Business allows you to create product catalogues and send automated messages to your customers. It’s a separate app that you can begin using for free now.
Then there’s WhatsApp’s Business API, which allows major brands to use WhatsApp’s code with the aim of creating bespoke messaging experiences that are unique to your brand.
2. It’s a good idea to join the WhatsApp ‘hype train’ now
I’m loosely using the term hype train here because the truth is any brand or business that’s investing in WhatsApp now is late to the party – that said, if ever there was a time, this is it.
In the next several months, we’ll see WhatsApp integrate with Messenger and Instagram, signalling an explosion in popularity for instant messaging as a marketing tool.
Brands that have already built messaging-first experiences such as KLM, which now allows you to check in and manage your flight bookings, will naturally be worlds ahead.
The same goes for early adopters of broadcast lists like Holiday Pirates, which have been using WhatsApp to serve their audiences everything from news to special offers.
My advice is to build a loyal following on WhatsApp and an ecosystem now that you can later align with your Messenger and Instagram activity for a much bigger bang.
3. Soon you’ll be able to sell directly through WhatsApp
Another reason why you should take WhatsApp seriously concerns many of the upcoming features coming to the platform in the next year.
In October, WhatsApp confirmed it will allow users to shop directly within chats, which is huge news for any brand and a major leap in the ongoing social commerce story.
The new functionality, which hasn’t got a confirmed release date yet, will use WhatsApp Pay (when it launches) and Product Catalogue. In the near future, a user will be able to order a new sofa from a brand like Ikea and have it delivered in just several instant messages
A key factor, however, is trust and a pre-existing relationship. Due to GDPR, no brand can message a consumer out of the blue, which is why it’s so important to build a rapport now and encourage users to opt-in to your messages in preparation for the big launch.
4. One day you’ll be able to advertise on there too
It’s an open secret that Facebook’s long-term goal is to put ads in WhatsApp – something its original co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton promised would never happen.
But they’re out the picture now, which is good news for brands in a roundabout way. Given the way social commerce is going, it’s a matter of when not if for ads in WhatsApp.
If WhatsApp finds a way to make Status as popular as Instagram Stories, it makes sense that this would serve as prime real estate for advertisers; ads may even come with integration.
Either way, the commercialisation of WhatsApp is well underway, and it won’t surprise me if plans are already being put together behind closed doors to place ads in WhatsApp.
5. It’s only a matter of time before AR becomes pivotal to the app
In this era of COVID-19, there’s never been a greater demand for augmented reality, especially filters and lenses that give consumers the chance to try before they buy in AR.
Given that WhatsApp is set to integrate with Messenger and Instagram, which are compatible with SparkAR (Facebook’s AR creation platform), it’s not outlandish to say that AR will have its place on WhatsApp.
The technology has had a muted presence on WhatsApp for the most part, but Facebook will be well aware of the innovations going on over at Snapchat, including a recent update to Snap’s visual search tool that lets users scan food and wine labels for additional info.
QR codes are already a big part of WhatsApp, so it wouldn’t be hard for AR to play a bigger role, thus opening up a world of new opportunities for brands.
Are you using the WhatsApp for Business app or API? Would you like to know more after reading this article? Let’s talk. Get in touch via the email address below and see how Digital Human can help.
Kunal Pattany is a public speaker, technology commentator and the founder and CEO of Digital Human. With 15 years’ experience in marketing for leading companies like Kantar, a WPP data and insights company, he has turned his attention to the impact of digital and AI on humans and society’s response to innovation. To find out more about Digital Human, click here. To talk with Kunal about speaking opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org 👋