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Could WhatsApp Be the Next Big E-commerce Channel?


By Jillian Warren

Published June 2, 2021

4 minute read

If you think WhatsApp is solely for casual chats with friends, think again.  WhatsApp for business is gaining serious traction — over 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account every day.  During Facebook’s annual F8 Refresh conference, WhatsApp’s Head of Business Products, Ajit Varma, shared how the platform is evolving as a customer service

If you think WhatsApp is solely for casual chats with friends, think again.

WhatsApp for business is gaining serious traction — over 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account every day.

During Facebook’s annual F8 Refresh conference, WhatsApp’s Head of Business Products, Ajit Varma, shared how the platform is evolving as a customer service and sales tool.

In this blog post, we’ll cover how WhatsApp for business works and how you can use it to drive e-commerce sales.

How Does WhatsApp for Business Work?

WhatsApp is a messenger tool that is primarily used for friends and family chats.

However, WhatsApp can also be used for business.

With the WhatsApp for Business API, brands can use WhatsApp as a home for customer service chats, timely notifications, and product recommendations.

Source: WhatsApp

As the app is comfortable and familiar for most users, it’s an easy platform to reach and engage with customers.

With the WhatsApp for Business API, brands can benefit from automated responses to common queries (much like Facebook Messenger chat bots) and provide customer service at scale.

Plus, the evolution of WhatsApp Pay — an in-chat payment feature that allows users to make transactions — opens up a whole host of opportunities for integrated e-commerce on the platform.

For example, when a user contacts a business to ask about a certain product or service, brands can provide recommendations on WhatsApp.

With WhatsApp Pay, users could soon buy a product directly within the app — streamlining the end-to-end purchasing process.

Want to find out more about how social commerce is evolving? Check out this blog post: How Social Media Is Changing the Online Shopping Experience

Facebook F8 2021: New WhatsApp Business Features

During Facebook’s annual F8 conference, WhatsApp’s Head of Business Products, Ajit Varma, announced some major updates to the WhatsApp Business API:

  1. Timely Notifications

  2. New Message Formats

  3. Add to Cart

  4. Block/Report a Business

Timely Notifications

Businesses will soon be able to send timely notifications and updates to customers on WhatsApp, “to let people know when an item is back in stock, for example.”

Source: F8 Refresh 2021

These could also be informational updates, reminders to book an appointment, or the latest product deals.

New Message Formats

Varma also shared plans to introduce new messaging formats to help businesses streamline conversations, resolve issues, and drive conversions.

The first of which is list messages, which lets brands present a menu of up to 10 options for customers to choose from.

Source: F8 Refresh 2021

This means customers no longer need to type out a response, significantly lowering the barrier to entry.

Next up, reply buttons — a new format that allows people to make a selection from up to three options in one quick tap.

Source: F8 Refresh 2021

Brands can customize their list and reply options via their WhatsApp Business API account.

Add to Cart

Perhaps most notably, Varma shared some major e-commerce additions to the WhatsApp Business API.

Customers will now be able to “Add to Cart” within WhatsApp — and could soon be able to make payments directly within the app.

Source: F8 Refresh 2021

“We’re building new tools to allow the end-to-end commerce journey to happen in WhatsApp,” said Varma. “These features will provide a richer shopping experience.”

“In the future, our goal is to bring payments to our business products,” he added.

Block/Report a Business

Alongside an influx of new features, Varma shared that the company is exploring ways to moderate how businesses operate on WhatsApp.

In addition to limiting how many messages a brand can send and monitoring “value” metrics, WhatsApp is also introducing ways for users to block or report a business.

Source: F8 Refresh 2021

Users will be able to provide a reason for their decision, which WhatsApp will share as feedback to businesses, Varma explained.

These new features make the WhatsApp Business API a compelling choice for brands looking to evolve their customer experience.

“We’re building a platform which enables you to be creative and come up with ideas that fit well into conversions and plug into WhatsApp’s massive reach,” shared Varma.

“There will be very successful companies built entirely on WhatsApp.”

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