WhatsApp Business App homepage
UPDATED: WhatsApp reached out 04/08 to confirm that payments are not yet available on the platform, correct brand names and clarified metrics for app users.
WhatsApp Business App has now launched on Android and iOS but should your business use the new option? You may want to ask yourself these three questions before you switch and join the +5 million businesses on the platform already;
Can you afford the time this will take to reply to customers?
WhatsApp has over a billion and a half users; around 23.4m in the US and more in Europe. Not all will be your customers but if your business chooses to activate the option you need to test how long this new channel could take you. A channel that doesn’t currently allow you to take money through it (WhatsApp has only been testing person-to-person payments in India along with other functions). Timely and not without its rewards but the time it takes you to return incoming enquiries is a key consideration. You may have to buy more technology too as WhatsApp Business works with one number so if you don’t want to lose your personal contacts, you’ll need a different number.
Do you do a lot of business in India?
By far, India is home to Whatsapps largest group of users, +4x the amount of US users. If this is where you make your money, being on WhatsApp is less of a no-brainer and quite possibly mission critical. Europe is equally popular, but if your business is US-focused there may be better ways to spend your time and money right now.
Do you get a lot of the same questions over the phone or via email?
WhatsApp Business App allows you to create questions that users can ask and WhatsApp will serve them the answers. Handy to reduce time spent answering simple questions. Consider the speed at which WhatsApp may need you to up your response time too. WhatsApp is instant and people have expectations that if go unmet could risk alienating customers. Alternatively, update that website…
Already seeing some creative uses by governments and business including concierge services, food ordering, medical consultations, helplines, WhatsApp Business App will help small and medium businesses get closer to their customers but it is not without cost or issue. There is currently one payment option (available in India), and that is UPI payments, while very popular it is by no means the only way to receive payments that businesses use today (or in the future). The app also offers no insights and reports for companies at the moment making the app feel somewhat unbusinesslike. Instead, the app relies on you to label customers to give you low-level data (including the number of messages read) but doesn’t give you any data on them which is a shame and a missed opportunity for WhatsApp (perhaps down the line this will be rectified for a fee?!). Refunds are also an issue for many businesses as the app does not yet allow refunds which means a manual process for business owners. Combined these issues should give anyone significant pause before diving in.
Meant for small businesses, WhatsApp Business App is an interesting look into a future that a lot of the big platforms want. Facebook, Snap and other large platforms are all pushing in one direction, more business on the platform and fewer platforms with more features ala Asain mega-apps like WeChat, Grab, Go-Jek and company. While WhatsApp Business App is not the option to use if you are a larger business (for this look at using WhatsApp Business API), early features and moves suggest WhatsApp will use early iterations to further refine a longer-term product for businesses although not everyone is convinced that WeChat-type apps will ever succeed in the US.
WhatsApp Business App is available now in Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, India, Mexico, the UK, and the US and the app will be rolling out in the coming weeks.
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