We recently speculated that parent company Facebook was well-placed to roll out a big business customer service platform on WhatsApp. And that is exactly what has happened now.
WhatsApp has enjoyed a formidable rise to fame and given the way the service has evolved in recent years – including the introduction of its payment feature, and the beta version of its business functionality, as pioneered by Dutch airline, KLM – it was only a matter of time before a formal commercial service came to light.
But why has it taken so long? While the WhatsApp team is just a fraction of the wider Facebook organization, it seems that the parent company has struggled to monetize WhatsApp; but has been keen to preserve its ad-free appeal. But according to sources, it seems as though both parties have finally relented on that part.
Source: Statista based on WhatsApp and Facebook.
As we know since the beginning of August, the service is now called „WhatsApp For Enterprises“ and it comprises three core features designed to attract the attention of big business.
Live Chat – As you’d expect, any WhatsApp-branded service is based around a communications channel (!). However, while it closely mirrors functions that have been available to WhatsApp Business’ small company customers – a SMS-style channel – it seems unlikely that chatbots or any other machine-learning based AI has been featured at launch.
Real-Time Notifications – This is the real advantage that WhatsApp for Enterprise is offering. All verified accounts (how to achieve ‘verification’ remains to be seen), are able to send items to users; flagging things like e-tickets, payments, and more as they happen; from companies, to individuals.
Sponsored Messages – Ah yes; the missing piece in the WhatsApp monetization strategy – one long held out on, to avoid anything overly commercial. It is unclear whether users will begin getting direct messages from paying brands or whether they’ll be more ‘background noise’ like retargeting for example. But any sort of a paid endeavour is a big step for WhatsApp – and for Facebook too. Rolling out payed gateways of any kind will enable businesses to reach many more customers more frequently – as WhatsApp has a much bigger global reach than Facebook Messenger – and also potentially paves the way for better multichannel customer re-engagement.
The long period of waiting came to an end now (- the formal ‘go live’ date was reported to be July 17). There is surely not be any shortage of corporate customers; also a ‘waiting list’ is already in place, and the API will be made available for businesses.
What is now clear is that Facebook is finally figuring out the breadth and depth of its growing portfolio of social media platforms, and is assigning each of them with a purpose that aligns with both customer experience and the needs of big businesses.
Instagram is a visual tool, perfect for showcasing products in different contexts; Facebook Messenger has all of the automation functions needed to provide an insightful and low-effort buying experience, as well as the ability to coordinate complex tasks; and now with “WhatsApp for Enterprise”, more personalised messaging can take place between customers and businesses: at scale.
However, to make the most of these new opportunities, businesses will need to both better understand and make more precise plans on how to translate their business activities and processes into a consistent customer journey – across numerous conversational channels.
We look forward to seeing how this additional channel will provide a human-centric way of helping customers and companies connect.