afaqs! news bureau

A look at how WhatsApp sees the future of business communication

The app intends to make it easier for brands and consumers to talk and shop on it, and there’s a video to show you how.

The relevance of messaging apps is not just restricted to personal communication. They also play a key role for businesses to reach out to people and vice versa.

Take the COVID-induced lockdown, for instance, when people relied on daily WhatsApp messages from nearby grocery stores and vegetable/fruit vendors on the available stock, prices, working hours, and if home delivery was available.

This is the next step in business communication. As a WhatsApp blog reads, “While businesses spend billions of dollars annually managing phone calls, emails and SMSes, people don’t want to wait on hold, get passed from person to person, or wonder if their messages were received.”

175 million people message a WhatsApp business account daily and it wants “to make business messaging on WhatsApp the best way for people and businesses to get business done.”

There’s a cool ad to show how it’s done. It details how small businesses use the app to close sales. They use their catalogue to showcase their goods and services, and then chat with the customer on the app to coordinate delivery address and payment details.

To make all of this even easier, WhatsApp has just added a shopping button (it will come to India later). It also intends to “make it possible to add items to a cart, and check out, right within WhatsApp.”

The blog post also details the areas WhatsApp intends to increase its investment in to help the consumers and businesses.

Shopping: WhatsApp will expand ways for people to check out available products and make purchases right from a chat. It also wants to make it easier for businesses to integrate these features into their existing commerce and customer solutions.

Facebook hosting services: Businesses have varying technology needs, and want choice in the companies they work with to host and manage customer communications, particularly with remote work increasing. So, over the coming months, WhatsApp plans to expand its partnerships with business solution providers it has worked with over the last two years.

WhatsApp will also provide a new option for businesses to manage their (WhatsApp) messages via hosting services that Facebook plans to offer. Providing this option will make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to get started, sell products, keep their inventory up to date, and quickly respond to messages they receive - wherever their employees are.

Business sales: WhatsApp will charge business customers for some of its services, which will help it continue building a business of its own, while providing and expanding free end-to-end encrypted text, video and voice calling for more than two billion people.

Then there’s The Harris Poll, which surveyed 8,214 adults aged 18 and older in the US, UK, Germany, India, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia to understand their thoughts about business messaging.

In India,

· 81% agreed that messaging (via chat app, text) is a quick and easy way to communicate with a business.

· 77% agreed that they “want to be able to communicate with businesses in the same way that I communicate with friends/family through messaging (via chat app, text).”

· 78% agreed that “messaging (via chat app, text) with a business saves me time, compared to calling a business.”

· 76% said, “I am more likely to do business with/purchase from a company that I can contact via messaging (via chat app, text), than one that I cant.”

· 75% agreed that they “prefer to message (via chat app, text) with a business when I need to contact them now more than I did prior to the pandemic.”

It (The Harris Poll) also gave two examples of how WhatsApp has “been a key platform to help small businesses reach customers and across sectors.”

SMB: Happy Milk is a certified organic farm-fresh dairy brand based in Bengaluru, providing dairy products to 1,800 homes and commercial customers. The team communicates entirely over WhatsApp, sharing pictures, videos and live locations with customers, and providing updates on new products and payment follow-ups.

API: ICICI Bank set up a WhatsApp helpline during the pandemic to stay connected with its customers, and now has close to a million users.