When you think of the instant messaging service WhatsApp, companies using the platform for customer service and marketing may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, you may think about how WhatsApp connects you with far-away relatives and friends you’ve made in distant lands.
Although WhatsApp’s features have stayed essentially the same over the years, its followers have ballooned. It boasts over 1 billion active daily users as of 2017, making it the most popular messaging application in the world. Following close behind are instant messaging platforms Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber, Line, QQ Messenger and Skype. It’s no wonder that companies are capitalizing on this messaging platform.
When WhatsApp was created in 2009 by former Yahoo employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum, it was the first of its kind. WhatsApp was like the ubiquitous Skype, but for mobile. It was free to use, utilizing wifi to make voice and video calls, as well as send texts. As its number of users snowballed, it was acquired by Facebook in 2014.
Originally, WhatsApp users could only communicate with each other as individuals or as groups of individual users, but as of September 2017 WhatsApp announced a forthcoming business platform which enables companies to provide customer service to users at a larger scale. This platform is currently in the testing stages but offers two levels:
- A free WhatsApp for Business app for small companies (available currently for Android users only)
- A paid Enterprise Solution for companies operating at a larger scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks
Like all WhatsApp communications, conversations with businesses are encrypted and businesses can be blocked by users. Businesses are only able to contact people who have provided their phone number and agreed to the communication.
In the upcoming months, WhatsApp will be testing new features for their WhatsApp for Business app and businesses can apply to be considered here. Companies like Aeromexico and KLM airlines are participating in this testing, using the platform to announce flight times and notices.
WhatsApp Business features include:
- An official presence through a verified profile
- Being able to provide customers useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates
Ten Businesses Successfully Leveraging WhatsApp
Let’s take a look at companies using Whatsapp in creative ways.
1. Clark’s Shoes
Footwear manufacturer and retailer Clark’s Shoes used WhatsApp’s technology to showcase history in a campaign to increase sales of their classic Desert Boot. As part of an interactive storytelling campaign, they presented different characters involved in the shoe’s rich history. WhatsApp users could live chat with these different characters and receive different images, videos, and music that created a documentary.
2. Hellman’s Mayonnaise
Food company Hellman’s Mayonnaise created the first live recipe service called WhatsCook. Hellman’s wanted to inspire new ways of using mayo as a cooking ingredient. People could provide their phone number on the Hellman’s WhatsCook website, and real chefs would get in touch with them directly through WhatsApp. Users would then snap a photo of the contents of their refrigerator so that chefs could offer tips on what to make. This campaign first rolled out in Brazil, then to Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and Argentina.
3. Agent Provocateur
British lingerie brand Agent Provocateur used WhatsApp for a Christmas campaign in 2015. They created a personal shopping service called ‘Ménage à Trois’, where couples could partake in a three-way conversation with an Agent Provocateur agent, who would offer lingerie suggestions based on personality and preferences. This service provided shopping inspiration, as well as direct customer service.
UK Groupon-like company Buyagift informs customers of deals and discounts on their website by sending direct alerts. This kind of personalized messaging gives more of an exclusive feel than receiving a newsletter. Users can sign up for WhatsApp alerts by adding Buyagift’s number to their contacts.
The British public service broadcaster BBC used WhatsApp as a public health information service. During the 2014 Ebola crisis, they provided updates about the virus in West Africa to those who added them on WhatsApp and subscribed to updates. As the biggest messaging platform in Africa, WhatsApp was a means of reaching people in the region directly.
In general, users can also get in touch with BBC on WhatsApp to share their stories and eyewitness accounts in a quick and easy way using audio, text messages and images.
6. Absolut Vodka
Alchohol brand Absolut Vodka used WhatsApp to promote their “Absolut Unique” limited edition vodka collection. They organized a launch party which was controlled by a virtual doorman named Sven. To get a public ticket for the party, guests had to message Sven on WhatsApp and convince him they were ‘worthy’ of entering the party using the most creative means possible (videos, pictures, images, voice notes. etc.) This formed a virtual queue ‘outside’ in advance of their event, positioning Absolut’s brand as one that is cool.
Alcohol brand Heineken came up with an ingenious way to celebrate their 7th year of sponsoring the UEFA. Using WhatsApp, they launched a campaign called “Heineken Road to the Final.” Fans watching the football games could text the word “Champions” to Heineken’s WhatsApp account. Once confirmed that they are above 18, they were given five football trivia questions. Answering all five questions automatically qualified them to win a trip to the Finals.
Soft drink company Coca-Cola used Whatsapp for their “Share a Coke” campaign. In return for user’s sending their name over WhatsApp to Coca-Cola, the brand would send them back a virtual Coke bottle featuring their name.
Dental hygiene brand Colgate launched a contest called “Send Your Smile” to promote their Visible White toothpaste brand. For a chance to win a makeover with brand ambassador Sonam Kapoor, consumers could send a selfie of their smile to the Colgate WhatsApp number displayed on the toothpaste’s packaging.
Streetwear brand Adidas uses WhatsApp for strengthening their relationship with their customers and getting a better understanding of them. They set up invite-only WhatsApp groups called “squads” in major global cities, with the aim of creating groups that millennials would want to join. The purpose is to build relationships with their customers, instead of directly trying to sell to them.
Why Are Businesses Using WhatsApp?
- To provide real-time, direct customer service and support
- To get feedback on products and services, through WhatsApp’s integrated polls and questionnaires
- To create or target specific groups (WhatsApp allows users to create groups and invite like-minded people through a phone number)
- To grow their online brand presence through marketing campaigns
As we’ve seen through the examples above, WhatsApp has huge potential for engaging consumers in a new and intimate way, both in terms of direct customer service and creative campaigns. Businesses from all around the world are maximizing on this free-to-use messaging platform.
How can you get started in using WhatsApp for your business? Create a WhatsApp account for your business. In the upcoming months, more businesses will be able to verify their accounts. If your company is big enough, you can apply to test their new business platform. Most importantly though, look at WhatsApp through a marketing lens and use it in creative ways to engage your audience!
Is your business on WhatsApp? Would you use WhatsApp to interact with a company? Let us know in the comments below.