The new business-focused version of WhatsApp for Android is now available for download in the UK.
Small business needs
The new WhatsApp Business can be downloaded for free at Google Play, and is specifically aimed at the needs of small businesses, which account for 99.3% of all private sector businesses in the UK (FSB).
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has said that it wants people to use WhatsApp to connect with small businesses, and that the new ‘WhatsApp Business’ will make it easier for companies to connect with customers, and offers a more convenient way for the 1.3 billion WhatsApp users to chat with businesses.
Why launch WhatsApp Business?
Since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $22 billion, the company has been looking for ways to monetize the app which, although was developed for use by individuals, is now being widely used by people in business, and in large and small organizations as a collaboration tool for staff.
This move by WhatsApp is also designed to gain a march on rivals in what has become a battle for the attention of consumers by messaging apps including Apple’s iMessage, Facebook’s Messenger, Kik, Slack for business, and others.
What can it do?
The launch in the UK (and the US, Indonesia, Italy and Mexico at the same time) is part of the wider worldwide rollout. According to WhatsApp, 80% of small businesses already using the App in India and Brazil say WhatsApp helps them both communicate with customers and grow their business (Morning Consult study figures).
Features of the App include:
- Business Profiles: to help companies to provide useful information to customers e.g. business description, email or store addresses, and website.
- Smart Messaging Tools: to enable companies to respond quickly with answers to frequently asked questions, also greeting messages to introduce customers to the business, and away messages that let them know you’re busy.
- Messaging Statistics: simple metrics like the number of messages read to see what’s working, and to give businesses a way of measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of the app.
- WhatsApp Web: to enable the sending and receiving of messages with WhatsApp Business on the desktop.
- Account Type: so that customers will know that they’re talking to a business because it is listed as a Business Account. This can become a Confirmed Account later (similar feature to Twitter’s verification process), and once confirmed, the account phone number will match the business phone number.
- WhatsApp allows users to send photos, it has end-to-end encryption security (an important feature for businesses), allows for easy document sharing (up to 100 MB), and allows for seamless syncing of your chats to your computer, so that you can chat on whatever device is most convenient.
What does this mean for your business?
Since many business people (and more importantly, their customers) were using WhatsApp for general communication anyway, it makes sense for Facebook to develop a version that is focused more specifically on small businesses. Clearly, this is a very large market in countries across the world, and it will, of course, present opportunities for monetisation and probably advertising using the Facebook-owned network in future.
From the perspective of businesses, WhatsApp provides a lot of powerful, useful, and cost saving features for a handy free app, and with speed and versatility of communications being an important factor in getting the business in today’s environment, WhatsApp Business is likely to prove popular.
WhatsApp Business offers businesses / brands the potential for building a relationship with their customers on a 1:1 level. The huge user base of the app, its speed and reliability, and the verification system of the business version could provide new opportunities for businesses that are able to harness it in a value-adding and engaging way.
There are many possible applications for WhatsApp Business e.g., KLM’s use of the app for flight confirmations and updates, brands using the app on competitions, and WhatsApp Business could work well in industries such as hospitality. WhatsApp could be a perfect way to enable customers to book a hotel room, get customer support, and even access an on-site member of staff such as a concierge. Retail brands could use the app for many purposes in addition to just shipping confirmations.
Many tech and business commentators are saying that 1:1 messaging is the future of personalized commerce and post-purchase customer service, and WhatsApp Business is well positioned enough, and widely used enough to provide opportunities for businesses worldwide to improve their communication and relationship marketing.