In February 2020, just shortly before the world descended in to lock-down as a result of Covid-19, Whatsapp announced that it had crossed the jaw-dropping milestone of 2 billion users on its messaging platform worldwide. It then announced a further 40% surge in usage as a direct result of the pandemic as anxious consumers turned to social media to connect with family and friends.
It seems its simple strategy to build a compelling communications platform has firmly secured its place as the dominant messaging platform worldwide, boasting over 5 billion installs on the Google Play Store (the second non-Google app to have achieved this milestone), commanding an eye-watering purchase price of $22 billion when Facebook acquired it in 2014.
With so many users in so many global markets, the platform is now clearly in a powerful position to connect commercially with consumers, as we’ve seen already with the leading Chinese super-apps, so in this article we’re exploring the possibilities for marketers to use Whatsapp to drive consumer behaviour and loyalty and sharing some ideas we’ve seen being built on the platform in exciting markets such as India.
I’ve often shared my favourite book title of all time “Don’t Make Me Think” – and that’s exactly why Whatsapp has excelled. Its consumer product was initially fee-based but quickly reverted to being available for free, offering simple and compelling functionality, yet for many years, it lacked a path to profitability. That all began to change in early 2018 when the brand launched “Whatsapp for Business” in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., creating a format for powerful complementary solutions that will undoubtedly ensure a lucrative future.
Customer Communication at Scale
As an early case study, it’s worth noting the innovative use of Whatsapp by major brands such as the “world’s largest dedicated social media team”. Almost three years ago in 2017, KLM was the first airline in the world to test a verified WhatsApp business account, offering their customers instant booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding passes, flight status updates and the ability to ask questions in 10 different languages on WhatsApp.
These useful features are exactly the supportive opportunities described by WhatsApp as a way for consumers to connect with businesses that “matter” to them, and for this reason, they are supporting both small businesses and large scale enterprises equally to help brands find ways to build services that are easy to use, understand and access.
More recently and perhaps even more impressive, is the decision by World Health Organisation to use Whatsapp as its communications partner throughout Covid-19 to provide information to anxious people around the world. Users simply send a “Hi” message to the dedicated number (+41798931892) to request reliable information in any one of their supported languages including English, Arabic, Hindi, Spanish, Portugese and others. It’s a powerful approach and one that commercial marketers will no doubt be watching with interest.
Innovating in India
As the world’s second most populous country, Whatsapp recently reported 400 millions users in India, with this “gigantic reach in its biggest market” prompting the development of some exciting concepts that will appeal to convenience retailers as follows:
- Jiomart is an eCommerce brand “run by India’s most-valued firm’ that is now testing grocery ordering on Whatsapp. Users simply send a text to a dedicated number to access the products they want to order from the store’s catalogue function. Orders are then allocated to the closest store for fulfillment – however a Whatsapp payment facility is not yet available.
- As further evidence of the power of digital platforms to support subscription services, an Indian pharmacy chain called Digi-Prex is one of a number of innovative tech start-ups highlighted by TechCrunch as building their entire businesses on Whatsapp – in much the same way as the mini-apps we discussed earlier within WeChat.
- Most recently, Whatsapp won approval to launch a payment option in India, so we will be watching with bated breath to see how brands and users embrace this new feature when it finally launches in the already crowded Indian payments market.
Mobile-First Markets for Messaging
In closing, some fascinating messaging research was published in 2017 by Hubspot who said:
“Companies interested in using messaging services will find eager interest in Latin America…..organizations selling to Latin American countries should experiment with messaging use cases because the Latin American audience are more open to using messaging platforms to interact with businesses”.
As a platform that has achieved such extra-ordinary scale even without any marketing in emerging markets, one thing is clear for us as marketers – while loyalty programme features and support have not yet emerged on Whatsapp, from an information, customer service and communications perspective, there’s no doubt that brands that want to earn their customer’s trust and loyalty needs a clear and consistent Whatsapp marketing strategy.
Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specialising in the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.
How we do it:
We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.
Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.
One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.
Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:
Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Independent Loyalty Consultant
With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer, as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a former judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards.