WhatsApp is by far the world's most popular messaging platform. With over 1.5 billion active users, the Facebook-owned service is one that businesses can't ignore as a potential connection point to customers.
The main premise of WhatsApp Business is that it allows organizations to quickly message with current and possible customers, similar to other messaging options from Apple or parent company Facebook. The app is currently available for Android, with reports that an iOS version is in the works.
Messaging has become a default way that customers communicate with a business, be they new or returning customers.
Creating a business profile
Much like with other social networks' business services, you create a profile specifically for your business. The process is pretty straightforward, akin to creating an account with your standard social service: Register a phone number, input your business's name, website, email and a short description of what your business is about.
Depending upon the nature of the business, you may not always have the bandwidth to respond to each message directly. With WhatsApp Business, you're able to create quick replies for situations that warrant them, such as delivery confirmation or offering a coupon.
Similarly, automated messages can be used for such communications. For example, you can compose a greeting that serves as an introduction to your business, or blast out an instant message when someone contacts you for the first time to let them know you'll respond as soon as you are able.
Similar to organizing your email messages, WhatsApp has a label system so you can organize chats and return to them if needed.
For those who want to go beyond the basics, the WhatsApp Business API enables organizations to build more complex tools. For example, you can permit customers to make a purchase or inquire about an existing order through WhatsApp.
The API can also integrate with Facebook advertising tools so customers could contact you directly from an advertisement. The company touts that large organizations like Uber and Booking.com have found ways to better connect with customers via WhatsApp.
Using the API also gives your business more detailed metrics about your customers and can help you tailor your messaging strategy more effectively. As with any widely deployed API, third-party companies offer their own solutions that integrate with their own suite of messaging tools.
Messaging customers the right way
Facebook has been keen for business users not to go overboard with pestering their customers through WhatsApp. Answering key questions, providing order updates and shipping confirmations, or using automated answers for more basic questions like business hours are most likely to get a favorable response. Businesses are cautioned not to routinely send an overbearing number of offers or other overinvolved messages.
In the U.S., iMessage and Facebook Messenger have higher usage than WhatsApp, but the service is dominant in many regions of the world. In many countries, it's the default way that people communicate. Even if you're a local operation without an international presence, being available through such a large messaging platform can be an important conduit to communicate with customers.
Use the new Product Catalog
Facebook announced at its annual developer's conference that it is introducing a new Product Catalog for WhatsApp Business users that will be available later in 2019. Users will be able to offer an online catalog of their products through the app. Few details have been released yet, but it does appear that businesses will be able to add information such as title, description, a URL link and SKU of their products, in addition to showing an image of the product.
"This is going to be especially important for all of the small businesses out there that don't have a web presence, and that are increasingly using private social platforms is their main way of interacting with their customers," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Additional reporting by Matt D'Angelo.