1) What is WhatsApp?
Whatsapp is a cross-platform instant messaging service. That offers a range of features like text messages, voice calls, and video calls. Additionally, you can also send files in a variety of formats, with native display support for popular formats like GIF, JPG, etc. While legacy messaging services like SMS use cellular networks, WhatsApp uses the internet for communication.
It supports all modern mobile operating systems. Apart from this, WhatsApp also has Windows and macOS clients, while the web based version is platform-independent. If you are using WhatsApp on a large screen device like a laptop or iPad, you will get an interface better suited to large screens.
WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and subsequently acquired by Meta in 2014. After this acquisition, WhatsApp expanded in a variety of business verticals, both related and unrelated to messaging. The most notable of these are WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Payment.
2) What is WhatsApp for eCommerce?
By Whatsapp for ecommerce, we are primarily referring to eCommerce specific range of features offered by Whatsapp Business. These features can be considered a subset of the WhatsApp business features, geared towards the use by ecommerce brands. These are specifically created to allow businesses to sell products and services directly through WhatsApp. WhatsApp for eCommerce allows e-commerce businesses to create catalogs, maintain carts, and accept payments.
Along with ecommerce specific features, WhatsApp Business also provides general features such as adding a description of your business and automated welcome messages. These are primarily used for communication and customer support. All of these can be used with the WhatsApp Business API.
WhatsApp for Commerce offers a complete range of features to accept and fulfill orders using only WhatsApp. Using the WhatsApp Business API in conjunction, ecommerce brands can also offer pre and post-purchase support through WhatsApp.
3) 6 Key Benefits of using WhatsApp for eCommerce
3.1) Cost Savings
The well designed features and interface of WhatsApp results in substantial cost savings as you do not need to create your standalone website for showcasing products and accepting orders. WhatsApp also provides some hard to implement features like automated replies and API integration.
Do keep in mind that having your own website is still desirable. The best way to use WhatsApp Commerce is to use it as a complement to your website. That being said, WhatsApp for eCommerce allows you to have a simple website and move the resource intensive features to WhatsApp.
3.2) Increased Engagement
WhatsApp Business has a wide range of features to increase engagement. These include welcome messages and instant automated replies. On top of this, you can also send out customized alerts and offers. You can use these features in a variety of ways. For example, cart abandonment reminders and customized offers can significantly improve conversion rates.
3.3) Higher Reach
Due to the unmatched market penetration of WhatsApp, it has one of the highest reach among instant messaging apps. This instantly grants you access to a large market. More importantly, it provides a seamless experience for the customer as the app is already installed on their device.
This is largely true for markets like India (97.1% market penetration) and Brazil (98.9% market penetration). If you are targeting markets like the US (41.2% market penetration) or Australia (32.9% market penetration), you ought to look at other options.
3.4) Timely Responses
Automated responses in WhatsApp allow you to provide timely responses to customers without having 24/7 customer support. This increases engagement and conversion rates. This feature can be critical for your business if you are catering to customers in a different time zone.
4) 3 Things to keep in mind when using WhatsApp for Ecommerce
4.1) Make sure you comply with WhatsApp's policies
Like most eCommerce marketplaces, WhatsApp for Commerce has certain rules and restrictions. Non-compliance with these can lead to the suspension of your WhatsApp business account.
For example, you are not allowed to deal in tobacco or related products, alcohol, or weapons. You are also not allowed to sell drugs, which extends to prescribed drugs too.
To ensure compliance, please give the terms and conditions a thorough read.
4.2) Set up proper processes for fulfilling sales
While WhatsApp allows you to list products and initiate orders, the main difference from a traditional ecommerce website is the lack of features for order fulfillment. You are supposed to handle payment and order fulfillment on your own.
Ideally, once the order has been initiated through WhatsApp, you should redirect the fulfillment process to your own website. Alternatively, you can integrate other services with Whatsapp through WhatsApp Business API to handle the payment and order fulfillment.
If you are a small business owner just starting out, it might be possible to handle this manually. The caveat is that manual fulfillment will soon become unsustainable as your order volume increases.
4.3) Ensure that you have your own brand identity
Even though WhatsApp can be used like an eCommerce marketplace, it was originally designed to complement your website or app. It can provide a seamless flow from your marketing platforms to your website. It facilitates purchases by providing a catalog of products and customer support services. But after products are added to the cart and the customer is checking out, you should redirect them to your own website or app.
This makes it necessary to have your own website and brand identity. WhatsApp is best used as an intermediate to redirect customers. Also, after the customers have interacted with your brand and selected the products, they are more likely to create an account on your website. Having one-touch social login services can noticeably impact conversion rates here.
5) How can you use WhatApp for Commerce to Drive Sales
5.1) Use instant replies
You can automate replies on WhatsApp to the most commonly asked questions. This can be used as an interactive FAQ section and will consequently reduce the workload on your customer support team. Real-time replies will also improve customer engagement.
This can be implemented natively on WhatsApp or by using an external service through the WhatsApp Business API. For more accurate and interactive interactions, it is always recommended to use an external service to automate conversations. You should also provide the option to speak to a customer support executive when needed.
5.2) Streamline your checkout process
While Whatsapp provides a streamlined process till checkout, you need to handle payment and order confirmation on your own. To reduce cart abandonments, making this process as seamless as possible is essential. Ideally, you should redirect the customer to your website to accept the payment and confirm the order. If you are handling this on WhatsApp only, ensure you have the proper integrations to make the process smooth.
5.3) Provide post purchase support and notifications
After you have confirmed the order, it is crucial to provide timely notifications to your customer. The WhatsApp Business API greatly simplifies this process. You can integrate your shipping services to WhatsApp using this API and provide real-time notifications.
It is a good idea to provide notifications about the major shipping milestones. You should also provide post purchase support if needed. As discussed earlier, parts of this can be automated.
5.4) Use the WhatsApp Business API
The WhatsApp Business API provides a protocol for other applications to read and reply to WhatsApp messages. All of this can be handled in the backend, and requires minimal computing resources. No true alternative exists to this, either in the form of technical solutions or competing products.
You can use this API to enable an external service to reply to WhatsApp messages. The possibilities offered by this are endless. Using this service, you can send shipping updates, card abandonment reminders, personalized orders, etc. This also allows you to integrate many external and specialized services with WhatsApp.
5.5) Integrate specialized services with WhatApp for Commerce
WhatsApp for Commerce provides access to the bare minimum features required for eCommerce. While these are often enough for basic tasks like displaying products and accepting orders, specialized services are a necessity for order fulfillment. Thankfully, the WhatsApp Business API makes this a breeze.
Using WhatsApp Business API to integrate specialized services with WhatsApp can help you provide an excellent order fulfillment funnel. For an excellent shipping experience, you can also integrate your logistics partner with WhatsApp to provide real-time notifications and order updates. While this feature is generally not provided by your carrier, it is pretty easy to implement with logistics intelligence platforms. Additionally, can integrate WhatsApp with a CRM platform to offer personalized offers and services.
6) 4 Common Mistakes eCommerce brands make when using WhatsApp for Commerce
6.1) Relying too much on Whatsapp
Relying too much on WhatsApp is never a good idea. While WhatsApp can streamline many processes, the features available are simply too limited. WhatsApp should be used as a messaging service to simplify communication with your customers. The actual content of the communication should be handled by dedicated external services.
6.2) Having a clumsy checkout process
The checkout process is a significant choke point where the maximum number of cart abandonments happen. You must ensure that your entire checkout process is streamlined to avoid this. No matter how you are handling payments, the transition from the cart to the payment gateway should be as seamless as possible. You can implement features like one-click social login and autofilling default shipping addresses to achieve this.
6.3) Not using the full potential of WhatsApp Business
The major advantage of WhatsApp for Commerce is that it is a flexible platform that merges seamlessly in your business processes. Not integrating WhatsApp business with other services you use is one of the mistakes ecommerce businesses commit. As a standalone service, WhatsApp lacks features and results in a subpar experience for the customer.
6.4) Spamming customers
The WhatsApp API makes sending messages easy! But excessive messages can quickly get irritating for customers and push them away from your brand. Regarding offers and discounts, you should only send personalized messages through WhatsApp and strictly limit them to a certain number per week. Shipping updates are fair game, but those are best managed by your logistics service provider.
7) WhatsApp eCommerce API, Integration, and Tracking
The WhatsApp eCommerce API is a powerful tool that allows you to integrate different services with WhatsApp. It allows other services to read messages and reply to them directly.
You can integrate different services with WhatsApp to send alerts to your customers. You can use a CRM to send offers and other reminders to them. You can use a logistics service provider to send tracking updates and delivery reminders. It can also handle returns and reverse shipments from WhatsApp itself. Other specialized services can also be integrated with WhatsApp.
These capabilities enable WhatsApp to work seamlessly with the other software used in your business.
WhatsApp for Commerce is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to offer different services through WhatsApp. A basic suite of features is built into WhatsApp itself. These can be expanded and complimented by using third-party services that can integrate with WhatsApp.
Using WhatsApp for Commerce properly can make a visible impact on your eCommerce business. But a lot of this hinges on the proper use of WhatsApp. WhatsApp by itself can be used only for a small range of use cases. This can be significantly expanded by integrating WhatsApp with other services you are using. The impact WhatsApp for Commerce has on your business largely depends on how well you utilize these features.
9.1) What are popular alternatives to WhatsApp?
For sending notifications and shipping updates to customers, SMS, email, and in-app notifications are some popular alternatives to WhatsApp.
In terms of features curated for ecommerce, WhatsApp competes with ecommerce marketplaces like Shopify and BigCommerce.
If you are an ecommerce business owner looking for an alternative to the full suite of features offered by WhatsApp, your best bet is using a SaaS platform like ClickPost along with your own app or website.
9.2) What are some useful WhatsApp features for ecommerce businesses?
Some useful WhatsApp features for ecommerce businesses are instant replies, catalogs, shopping cart, and WhatsApp API integration.
9.3) What are the advantages of using WhatsApp for ecommerce businesses?
Some notable advantages of using WhatsApp for ecommerce businesses are high market penetration, seamless integration with third party services, familiar and user friendly interface, and streamlined post purchase support.