We’re living in a time when brands and marketers look for new ways to take advantage of the context and establish a conversation with customers. The prevailing motto is “fish where the fish are,” so the anticipated ability for marketers to send messages to end customers via WhatsApp sounds like a dream come true.
Fish Where The Fish Are
Interacting on a new platform is always challenging. A brand needs to understand a new touch point’s associated risks and how to embed it with a bigger customer journey. Most importantly, the brand needs to be able to describe the platform’s added value, potential revenues and how consumers will appreciate, use and make it part of their lives.
In the last couple of years we’ve seen prominent platforms struggling to understand how they can establish brand-related and interesting content for marketers to dialogue with customers. It took years for Twitter develop a decent product, Pinterest still tries new models, Facebook invests heavily on messenger for new transaction/interaction tools, and Google’s tried several paths, scaling back Google Plus to focus on AI services.
Instagram has fared well, offering surprising new ways of attracting and engaging customers. National Geographic, for instance, used Instagram to increase their penetration of younger age groups while small businesses used it to start conversations with specific niche audiences. Instagram offers obvious benefits because it is 100% mobile and because it embeds the story of the brand within the context of customers.
B2C Messaging Through WhatsApp
WhatsApp seems to be a similar case. (It’s probably not a big surprise that Instagram and WhatsApp both belong to Facebook, who seems to understand and implement mobile strategies better than anyone.) By far, it’s the most popular messaging platform on earth with frenetic growth rates.
And because WhatsApp is cross platform, it’s where all the fish are and therefore a really attractive pond. Moreover, because it’s a platform where everything is about having extensive conversations, it will be really interesting to see how marketers present, interact, add value to people’s every day lives and make a clear and fancy brand positioning.
A Potential Touch Point
WhatsApp is a dream for marketers. But it can easily turn into a nightmare if brands do not complete the required difficult and in-depth work ahead of adoption. If marketers use the new service in a way they know well – to push messages, say something or make something known, it won’t work. Push approaches are old, not digital and not engaging. Users understand intent and a push approach can reflect negatively on a brand.
It will be interesting to see how Facebook will treat this potential new revenue stream. Certainly, as John Haro of Vibes says, Facebook might follow the no-push, no-interruption advertising in WhatsApp, allowing the app to preserve its “no ads, no games, no gimmicks” mantra. But if that’s the case then it would just be replicating Messenger.
A modern consumer journey is really hard to design. Marketers can’t just see and use isolated touch-points to push an offer, a product or an idea – they need make sure that each point serves a bigger story that’s an element of the path to purchase and engagement.
This becomes even more difficult in a cross functional world, where, in some cases, borders impede access to international audiences and opportunities for creating a customer journey across countries. And here too, WhatsApp offers more appeal. John Haro says, “One of the most obvious and advantageous opportunities for marketers is WhatsApp’s international user base. WhatsApp is among the primary messaging solutions for many people outside of the U.S., where unlimited messaging programs from the carriers are widely out of reach.” This should be quite attractive and appealing to marketers, especially for global lifestyle related brands or services.
At the end of the day, marketers don’t lack tools and platforms to communicate with customers. What they are missing is the ability to make customer journeys non-linear, adaptive, on place and on messaging. If used correctly, as part of well-integrated and well-embedded journey, the WhatsApp tool offers a powerful potential for better conversations with customers.