For years, growing customer expectations have resulted in a multitude of customer experience initiatives, ranging from loyalty programmes to personalised pricing. While these have all been effective to one degree or another, their success is tied into how effectively a company can communicate with its customers.
Growing omnichannel strategies have led to a rise in conversational marketing, driven largely by consumers’ increasing expectations for convenience and tailored digital experiences. Coupled with a reduced number of in-person interactions across all industries and sectors, more brands than ever before are turning to messaging platforms to interact with customers in meaningful ways.
These have historically included SMS and email, as well as instant messaging (IM) and social media platforms. Each of these has been used to try develop more personal interactions with customers as companies try to improve their reach. In fact, 90% of global consumers say they’ll spend more with companies that personalise the service they offer, but the multitude of messaging platforms have resulted in unnecessary complexity and costs for organisations, largely mitigating the benefits of this type of personalisation.
As a result, businesses have been turning more to smarter technologies, using chatbots and AI to streamline customer communications. Recent statistics show that 67% of worldwide consumers interacted with a chatbot to get customer support over the past 12 months, with research indicating that a chatbot can help a business save up to 30% of its customer support costs. While this has gone a long way to improving the efficacy of business-to-consumer communications, the messaging ecosystem has remained vast, with many organisations relying on interactions between various platforms and their own apps to continue operating.
The rise of WhatsApp – Starting as just another messaging platform, WhatsApp has evolved over the past few years. By introducing payments, location shareability, audio/video calls, and document attachments, WhatsApp is a one-stop solution for virtual interactions. There is no concern for security as the app features end-to-end encryption for messages, and it has a freely available API, enabling companies to easily integrate all WhatsApp functionality into their own environments.
The WhatsApp API makes it easy for companies to broadcast messages to unlimited people, add multiple users to handle chats, generate advanced analytical reports, and build a chatbot for WhatsApp to support customers, generate leads, collect feedback and so on. These features and the benefits they offer have resulted in WhatsApp slowly edging many other platforms out.
In a South African context, an additional benefit leading to WhatsApp’s growing popularity among corporate marketing teams is the fact that it is relatively inexpensive for users. With some of the highest data costs in the world, South African consumers are far more likely to communicate via WhatsApp than email, for example.
In addition, email runs the risk of landing in a customer’s junk mail folder, so it can easily be missed, but WhatsApp enables 24/7 communication that can be responded to by customer at will. It also offers much greater reach, as many low-income earners don’t necessarily have email accounts but do have WhatsApp loaded on their mobile devices
Integrating WhatsApp into a company’s ecosystem also allows much greater control, not to mention opportunities to improve customer service. Enabling bidirectional messages to come to one area, WhatsApp can be used in call centres just as effectively as it is as a person-to-person communication platform.
Making omnichannel a reality – Organisations looking to create a true omnichannel experience have started experimenting with different ways to integrate digital and physical channels, but very few have been able to create one coherent ecosystem that isn’t spread out over multiple applications, systems, and technologies. Those that have started seeing success in their omnichannel strategies have done so largely as a result of pursuing smarter solutions, like the MIP digital stack, which provides the basis for a company to collate all of its interactions to create the digital foundation from which it can operate.
Most importantly, successful omnichannel strategies are able to effectively direct customers between AI-driven tools and human interactions, providing for a seamless experience that can answer every query effectively while supporting a company’s internal processes. With its easy integration, growing list of features, and cost effectiveness, WhatsApp has removed the need for companies to custom develop applications to serve the same purpose, as many have had to do in the past.
Over 2 billion WhatsApp users mean the probability of a massive chunk of your customer base already using this platform is pretty high, so it makes sense to use WhatsApp rather than introducing a new communication channel and spending time and effort to migrate customers. Add to that the fact that using WhatsApp in your business mitigates costs for you and your customers, I believe that this messaging platform will replace 80% of apps in South Africa over the next few years.