Why WhatsApp for business is big news for marketers

WhatsApp for business has been rolled out in India with companies like Book My Show, OLA and OYO Rooms. But are they only interested in replicating SMS feature or is there something big

In our last weekend digital marketing show, one of the biggest developments of last week was WhatsApp finally opening up for businesses officially. Not just last week, we at Lighthouse Insights think that it is one of the biggest developments of 2017.

For those who are not aware: According to a Techcrunch article published last week, WhatsApp has rolled out verified profiles for a limited set of businesses. It is a green tick that businesses are being provided which means the number that has been provided to WhatsApp is for business communication.

At the same time the messaging giant rolled out the feature in India, reported Factordaily. According to the article Book My Show, OLA, and OYO Rooms are the businesses in India that are working with WhatsApp for the roll out. Book My Show is using WhatsApp to send conformation of the tickets booked, OLA and OYO Rooms might be using for one time password, invoices and booking conformations.

According to sources two private airline companies are also working with WhatsApp to integrate ticket distribution and boarding passes.

If you look at the integrations, these are basic replication of SMS. But why would companies be interested for such basic integrations when they have their own mobile apps and platforms that are doing a better job!

There are two reasons right now which makes this integration sensible, and also the reason to be called as big development:

Tapping WhatsApp’s massive user base

Earlier this year the messaging company announced that it has 200 million active users in India – one of the biggest market for the messaging giant owned by Facebook. At that point of time Brian Acton, co-founder at WhatsApp, said that the company will explore ways to contribute to “India’s vision of digital commerce.”

Growth of Whatsapp has been staggering in the country, with the increased mobile penetration and cheaper data costs. The largest messaging player in the country is also the third most active social media platform, followed by YouTube and Facebook. This finding was part of the Digital in 2017 report published by We Are Social Singapore.

According to the same report: messaging happens to be the second most popular activity after video calling.

There isn’t much of a doubt that today mobile plays a bigger role in driving the Indian economy. For companies, just replicating features of SMS isn’t the biggest incentive but tapping into the massive audience that WhatsApp provides is the carrot.

According to the WhatsApp FAQ, users who have a business phone number saved in their address book with the name as saved in the contact. However, when users don’t have it stored, the name will appear as chosen by the business. A clear suggestion that WhatsApp might be intending to allow verified businesses to ‘cold-message’ users, i.e. even if the user isn’t aware of the business. This is an area of supreme interest to companies.

According to sources: Book My Show is looking for integrating payments and commerce. Something that WeChat has been very successfully executing with businesses in China.

Payments on WhatsApp is another big thing that would soon go live. Going forward WhatsApp wants to be your one stop destination for commerce. It isn’t going to be easy since the messaging company will have to play according to the laws of the country and moreover it is going to face stiff competition.

Facebook and WhatsApp integration

When Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, most of the pundits forecasted that sooner or later the social network would be showing ads on the messaging platform. The forecast came true when in August 2016, it decided to let businesses on its platform to send marketing messages to users or label them as just ads.

The big shift in its privacy policy, didn’t go down very well in Europe and it was levied a fine of $122 million. We all know that laws in EU regarding user privacy and data security are very stringent. But in India the story is different and honestly nobody cares. So it isn’t going to stop Facebook from doing in India what it has always desired to do. It is just a matter of time when advertisers will run ads on the messaging platform and marketers wouldn’t complain.

Initial days of marketing on WhatsApp, as the integration goes deeper and scales, this is only going to be big and exciting for marketers.

Did anyone think about the poor user? Yes, they can block businesses that are of no use or spamming their personal space.