16 unexpected ways to use WhatsApp for business

Conversational marketing is on the rise, driven largely by consumers’ increasing expectations for convenience and tailored digital experiences. In fact, 90% of global consumers say they’ll spend more with companies that personalize the service they offer.

Coupled with recent government- and self-imposed restrictions on in-person shopping, more brands than ever before are turning to WhatsApp and similar messaging platforms to interact with customers in meaningful ways.

Today, millions of brands are using WhatsApp Business to build personal connections with consumers at scale. In this article, we’ll establish the growing importance of WhatsApp across business functions (not just marketing), showcase the ways some brands are using the app and highlight a few innovative tips for making the most of the network.

The benefits of using WhatsApp for business

For brands that use WhatsApp to engage with customers, there are a number of clear benefits.

Inventive ways to use WhatsApp for business

WhatsApp is more than just a place to answer one-off customer questions. Consider these ideas for integrating WhatsApp into your social media, sales or customer service strategies.

  • Optimize your profile: Use your WhatsApp business profile to share important information about your brand and provide answers to common customer questions.
  • Use digital catalogs: Create a digital catalog to help your customers discover your products or services.
  • Support customers: You can significantly reduce your reliance on call centers by outsourcing simple customer requests and queries to a WhatsApp-powered chatbot or digital assistant.
  • Share content via the Status feature: Use the Status feature to share content the same way you already do in your Facebook or Instagram Stories.
  • Develop creative marketing campaigns: Engage customers with an out-of-the-box marketing campaign.
  • Replicate core business processes: Identify key areas of your business that might be possible to replicate on WhatsApp.
  • Level up with ads: Use Facebook and Instagram ads that click to WhatsApp to initiate customer conversations that lead to sales.

7 WhatsApp Business account features to use

Once you create your WhatsApp Business profile, you’ll find a suite of tools you can use to scale your 1:1 messaging strategy on the platform. Here are seven that can help you make the most out of your presence on WhatsApp:

1. Quick replies

Quick replies are a great way to take some of the work out of addressing those frequently asked questions, like “when are you open?” or “is this in stock?”.

To set one up, all you have to do is click Quick Replies under the Business Tools section of WhatsApp. From there, you can create up to 50 unique replies that you can access via keyboard shortcuts.

A word to the wise: Start with 5-10 Quick Replies and add more as needed. That will make your new shortcuts easier to remember and use when talking to customers.

2. Automatic away messages

Adding 1:1 messaging to your strategy doesn’t mean you need to be available 24/7. You can use away messages to set appropriate expectations with your customers and to give yourself a break as needed.

Away messages can be triggered by a few different scenarios, including:

  • When a customer messages you outside of business hours
  • During specific periods, like holidays or extended closures
  • When receiving high volumes of inbound messages

When you set up an away message, be sure to clearly state when a customer can expect to hear back from you. Remove as much ambiguity from the situation as possible for an improved customer experience.

3. Contact and message Labels

You can use labels to organize inbound messages and contacts on WhatsApp, similarly to how you might use labels to organize your email inbox.

When it comes to creating a label strategy, it’s a choose your own adventure game. However, if you want to keep your social media response times low, we recommend that you create a label specifically for unresolved issues. This will help keep them top of mind as you work to find the answer to a customer’s question.

4. Catalogs and collections

Use your WhatsApp Business account to drive social commerce sales by creating an inventory catalog within the app. Aside from the product title, all additional fields—price, description, website link, product code—are optional, so you can make your listing unique to your sales process.

You can also use collections to sort your catalog for easier browsing. For example, you can create a holiday-specific collection or one that features products currently on sale.

5. Catalog links

Once you create a catalog, you can share items in your catalog in conversations with customers. All you have to do is find the item you’d like to share and click Send link via WhatsApp Business.

Use this tool if a customer is asking about a specific item or to provide alternatives for items that have sold out. You can also use it to send loyal customers updates on items that have gone on sale.

6. Cart

While you can drive customers directly to your site using WhatsApp Business’s catalog feature, you can also create a more seamless checkout experience by encouraging them to complete their purchase in-app using the cart tool.

All you have to do is enable the Add to Cart feature within your catalog and your customers can handle the rest from there.

7. Broadcast lists

If a customer adds your business to their address book on WhatsApp, you can add them to a broadcast list. These lists help you send the same message to multiple customers at once, saving you a lot of time and effort.

Use this tool sparingly and with SMS marketing best practices in mind. If you use it too often, you risk alienating customers who appreciate your business enough to consider it a personal contact.

WhatsApp Business account vs. WhatsApp Business API

If you’ve been looking into setting up a WhatsApp Business account, you’ve probably also come across information on the WhatsApp Business API (also known as WhatsApp Business Platform).

Think of this as the next evolution of a WhatsApp Business account, designed for medium and large businesses to manage conversational marketing at a wider scale. The WhatsApp Business API provides access to the tools listed above, along with advanced marketing and customer care features, including:

  • Multi-agent access
  • Profile verification
  • Multimedia message templates
  • Message variables for personalization
  • Interactive messages

Of course, advanced tools come at an advanced price point. WhatsApp Business API also has a conversation-based pricing model whereas WhatsApp Business Accounts are free. Businesses using the WhatsApp Business API receive 1,000 free conversations per month, with monthly rates increasing depending on the number of user- and business-initiated messages sent within the billing period.

16 brands that demonstrate how to expertly use WhatsApp for business

Brands are using WhatsApp in a variety of ways that expand their customer-facing and internal capabilities. The following examples highlight use cases in customer service, financial services, marketing, human resources and pipeline growth.

Customer service

1. Vodafone, a German telecommunications company, has embraced WhatsApp for customer messaging, reaching more than 200,000 customers via this channel each month. Their artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, TOBi, recognizes more than 250 customer needs and will only pass requests over to employees if it encounters an issue it is not equipped to solve. More than half of these interactions result in a solution for the customer, removing the need for live customer service support in many cases.

Vodofone's chatbot Tobi helps with simple customer service requests

2. Estée Lauder was the first major beauty brand to use WhatsApp to offer personalized skincare consultations for customers. Liv, an AI chatbot, was developed in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to replace over-the-counter consultations customers previously had in department stores. These digital conversations help customers understand how to use the company’s products and gather tips for maintaining an effective skincare regimen.

Estee Lauder's chatbot Liv helps with simple customer service requests

3. Nissan Saudi Arabia, looking to engage younger customers and reduce its reliance on call centers, began using WhatsApp to handle inquiries and nurture sales. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, people under 30 years old make up nearly three-fourths of the population. To reach that market, Nissan developed an automated chatbot powered by WhatsApp that could answer simple customer questions without the need to transfer them to the call center. After the launch of the chatbot, leads increased 390% and inbound calls were reduced by 33%.

Nissan Saudi Arabia's chatbot helps with simple customer service requests via WhatsApp

Financial services

4. One of Spain’s leading insurance providers, Mutua Madrileña, offers personalized messaging for customers via WhatsApp on more than 1,000 topics. In the first six months of using this new channel for customer support, the company had received nearly half a million messages, making up 23% of digital customer inquiries. In late 2020, the brand became the first insurer in the country to allow customers to submit automobile accident claims via their WhatsApp virtual assistant, resulting in a process that is now 30% faster.

mutua madrilena uses whatsapp for banking

5. WhatsApp banking is also a thing. Many banks, primarily in Europe, the Middle East and Asia are using the app to make banking simpler and more convenient for customers. India’s ICICI Bank and Pakistan’s HBL Bank both use the app to answer customer questions and to conduct basic transactions.

hbl bank uses whatsapp for banking

6. Mukuru, one of the largest money transfer providers in Africa, realized more than $1 million in reduced SMS costs after implementing customer service via WhatsApp. It also improved the reliability and security of wire transfers for the financially excluded communities it serves across the continent. With WhatsApp available, consumers can reduce their dependence on mobile banking apps that traditionally use more unpredictable unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) protocols that don’t require an internet connection. Since the introduction of WhatsApp, the brand’s customer satisfaction has jumped from 65% to 80%.

7. Tikkie, a Dutch peer-to-peer payment app (similar to Venmo or Zelle), created their own set of 11 stickers for their WhatsApp users. The stickers allowed customers a fun way of communicating with each other to thank someone for paying or to remind them to do so.

tikkie created its own whatsapp stickers to engage customers

Marketing campaigns

8. Absolut Vodka, a Swedish spirits brand, used WhatsApp to publicize an in-person product launch event in Argentina. Customers were encouraged to message a chatbot doorman named Sven to try to convince “him” they deserved one of two available tickets. This campaign resulted in more than 1,000 messages from 600 individuals over three days.

9. Carrefour Group, a French-based big box store chain, uses WhatsApp to provide digital coupon catalogs to its client base. These offers were previously printed, but the company wanted to offset those costs and have better targeting capabilities based on customers’ locations and preferences. By inputting their zip code into a chatbot, customers can be directed to their nearest store and also receive tailored deals straight to their phone. According to Meta, 45% of users now engage with the digital catalog versus 10% who open the catalog via email.

carrefour group uses whatsapp to share digital coupons with customers

10. The Brazilian arm of Hellmann’s, a mayonnaise brand, launched a campaign via WhatsApp to provide its users with on-demand cooking advice delivered by culinary professionals. The campaign, called WhatsCook, allowed customers to converse in real time with chefs to get detailed instruction, answers to their questions, or specific assistance for preparing their meals.

Hellmann's Brazil created a marketing campaign called WhatsCook that allowed users to ask chefs questions via WhatsApp

11. Adidas’ 100% Unfair Predator campaign, launched via WhatsApp, helped the brand engage with a core set of customers: footballers. Users were allowed to chat with Adidas to request a professional athlete join their local teams for a single game. For the lucky teams chosen, Adidas-sponsored players showed up in the company’s new Predator20 Mutator shoes.

Adidas engaged with customers via WhatsApp to promote a new shoe release

Human resources

12. BASF Group, a German chemical production company, uses WhatsApp to engage potential recruits. Anilina, a digital career assistant in the form of a chatbot, helps to answer candidates’ questions quickly and on the spot. For more involved conversations, candidates can reach out to representatives Monday through Friday via WhatsApp chat.

BASF uses a WhatsApp-powered chatbot for their recruiting efforts.

13. Logistics company Deutsche Post DHL Group allows candidates to apply to open positions directly from WhatsApp, eliminating the need to fill out lengthy and cumbersome online forms. The company deployed the chatbot to reach their target candidates where they are via a more user-centric application process.

Pipeline growth

14. French newspaper Le Monde used WhatsApp’s status feature to target customers in French-speaking African countries. The company posts content to its status, which is viewable for 24 hours (similar to an Instagram Story), three to four times a day. About 20% of the brand’s follower base typically consumes this content, and over time, Le Monde Afrique has grown its WhatsApp followers by 10,000.

15. Triya, a Brazilian beachwear brand, uses WhatsApp to converse with its customers and also to send order information like receipts and tracking information. After doubling down on their presence on the app, the company 5Xed their annual sales.

16. Centaline Property, one of Hong Kong’s largest real estate brokerages, uses WhatsApp to qualify leads more quickly and increase their sales pipeline. The company integrated the network with its property recommendation engine to allow leads to be funneled to the appropriate agent, along with each customer’s information and communication history. The use of key WhatsApp features like List Messages and Reply Buttons help Centaline Property personalize their outreach, resulting in a 27% increase in sales conversions.

Centaline Property uses WhatsApp to qualify leads more quickly and increase their sales pipeline

How will you use WhatsApp for business?

Conversational marketing is here to stay. The majority of customers expect it, and companies that strategically engage their audiences via channels like WhatsApp are better positioned to take advantage of the growth it makes possible.

If you’re looking for even more opportunities to use social messaging to build stronger customer relationships, this interview with Martha O’Byrne-O’Reilly, head of messaging developer partnerships at Meta, should give you some ideas.

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