Remember the feeling of “being a regular” somewhere? No shopping experience can compare to spending money with a company that knows who you are and what you like.

In this era of accelerated digital transformation, the concept can feel like a thing of the past. The truth is, it’s not gone; it’s just changing shape. Stand-out customer experiences still hinge on creating that sense of familiarity and personalization. Now, marketers can pull it off at scale with 1:1 messaging tools, like WhatsApp.

WhatsApp marketing taps into the preferences of today’s always-on, digital-first consumer. As of 2021, WhatsApp is the most popular global messenger app worldwide. With over two billion active users, WhatsApp is more than likely where your customers connect with family, friends and maybe even your competitors across the globe.

Marketing with WhatsApp can modernize your approach to customer care, helping you create stellar experiences that people remember and repeat. Keep reading to learn more about WhatsApp marketing and its role in your social media strategy.

Why you should include WhatsApp marketing in your social strategy

You’ve likely experienced frustration caused by an impossible-to-find support center hotline.

Or the boredom brought on by a seemingly endless customer service wait time.

These common customer experience pain points used to seem inevitable. Now, people can and will avoid them.

Your customers want to connect with businesses the same way they connect with their friends and family. No special hotlines or single-use platforms. Just fast, simple and convenient messaging.

WhatsApp marketing supports seamless customer experiences, encouraging retention and even evangelism. If you’re still on the fence, here are three prime reasons you need to include marketing with WhatsApp in your social media strategy:

It’s how you’ll beat your competition

As I said above, customers can and will avoid disjointed customer experiences. The latest Sprout Social Index™ found that responding to customer service questions in a timely manner is the easiest way to get customers to buy from a brand over a competitor.

A chart describing the actions brands can take to get a consumer to buy from them over a competitor. Across all ages, responding to customer service questions in a timely manner takes the top spot.

With WhatsApp, your brand can secure a competitive edge that makes a measurable difference on your bottom line. A WhatsApp Business account allows you to set up messaging tools that guarantee quick response times with less effort. When 77% of consumers expect a response in less than 24 hours, speed is what will make your business stand above its rivals.

It’s where your customers are most responsive

WhatsApp marketing open rates are much higher than traditional email open rates. In fact, many estimate they’re on par with SMS marketing open rates, hovering somewhere around 90%.

This responsiveness opens the door for more meaningful interactions that go beyond support requests. Now, customers are using social messaging to ask questions about products, provide feedback, and give shout-outs. These behaviors empower your social media and customer care teams to act as digital sales floor associates, giving them real-time influence on purchasing behaviors.

A chart showing the top five reasons consumers reach out to brands on social media.

It’s the future of commerce

According to Meta’s Head of Messaging Developer Partnerships, Martha O’Byrne-O’Reilly, messaging is here to stay. She believes this influx of 1:1 messaging, combined with social commerce, is creating a new wave of what’s known as conversational commerce.

“[Conversational commerce] encapsulates the full range of reasons people chat with businesses, from asking about store hours to booking appointments, tracking deliveries and resolving issues,” says O’Byrne-O’Reilly. “And it’s happening in all the places where people are spending time online, which is predominantly social and messaging platforms.”

New technologies, like machine learning, chatbots and messaging, are ushering in a new era of customer experience. In fact, 77% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a brand if they could browse or get questions answered via messaging. Building WhatsApp marketing into your social strategy today can help future-proof your marketing strategy for tomorrow.

The 3 best WhatsApp marketing examples we’ve seen (so far)

A quarter of the world’s population, mainly in Latin America, Asia and Europe, use WhatsApp. It’s no wonder brands from those regions lead the pack when it comes to stand out WhatsApp marketing strategies.

If you’re planning to roll WhatsApp into your social marketing strategy, here are three brands you can look to for inspiration:

1. World Health Organization

In March 2020, the World Health Organization launched dedicated COVID-19 WhatsApp hotlines to service users in seven languages.

A screenshot of the World Health Organization COVID-19 Hotline, built using WhatsApp.

Users can access the hotline by messaging a location-specific number via WhatsApp. They’re then given several prompts to pick from for more information on the disease, vaccines and more.

This automated chatbot provides users with a solid middle ground between self-service and live support.

2. Lidl

Lidl, an international food retailer specializing in discount goods, has been riding the WhatsApp train since May 2020.

Initially, in response to the pandemic, the brand created a “Quiet Time” chatbot that allowed shoppers to check store capacity before heading over to shop. Now, Lidl has rolled out a full scale customer care strategy on the platform to provide a seamless support experience to their shoppers.

A screenshot of a Lidl customer service exchange on WhatsApp.

The company uses the platform to provide instantaneous support with automated greeting messages. When a customer sends a question or request, they get a message thanking them for their business. The message also shares that a live support agent will be with them shortly.

3. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Flight information typically lives in two different places: in a password-protected account or somewhere in an email. Neither of these options are particularly helpful when you’re speeding to the airport, trying to catch a flight. KLM is using WhatsApp to provide their passengers with something better.

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When a person books a flight with KLM, they can opt into WhatsApp communications. This allows them to centralize their booking, baggage and flight status information in a single, searchable conversation thread.

Blending WhatsApp into your social media strategy

WhatsApp marketing isn’t a magical solution to connecting with your customers. A poor messaging conversation will drive a customer away just like a poor in-person experience might. Like all marketing strategies, you get what you put into it.

If you’re ready to start marketing with WhatsApp, here’s everything you need to do before jumping in.

Decide on your team goals and operating norms

Your WhatsApp marketing goals will be different from your goals for traditional social media networks. Instead of engagements and impressions, you’ll want to start by tracking customer care metrics.

KPIs like average reply time and total response volume can help you benchmark your initial WhatsApp marketing efforts. Eventually, you’ll be able to use that data to inform more commerce-driven channel decisions.

You’ll also want to use this time to decide on operating norms. WhatsApp Business accounts only allow for one active user at a time, so creating a clear channel management schedule is imperative.

Luckily, you won’t have to experience this issue for long. Sprout is bringing WhatsApp messaging into its product suite before the end of 2022.

Sign up for WhatsApp Business

You won’t run your business account out of the general WhatsApp app. Instead, you have to use WhatsApp Business.

WhatsApp Business is available for both iOS and Android devices. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll see the account setup is pretty simple. All you have to do is verify your phone number and update your business information. For a full walkthrough, check out the video below.

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Craft templated messages

WhatsApp Business offers several messaging tools to streamline your workload and customer response times. All you have to do is craft your message.

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These templated responses are designed to help you act on important conversations in advance. WhatsApp’s messaging tools include:

  • Away message: When an away message is enabled, customers who message you will automatically receive a reply indicating that you’re busy or offline for the day.
  • Greeting message: Your greeting message automatically sends out a warm welcome when customers interact with you for the first time or after 14 days of no activity.
  • Quick replies: These canned responses can be used to quickly reply to frequently asked questions. They can be accessed in message conversations using specific shortcuts and you can save up to 50 at a time.

Build out a product catalog

The catalog is a powerful WhatsApp marketing feature that allows customers to browse through your products or services directly within the app. Once a product is in your catalog, you can share its link anywhere for more discoverability.

An Android mockup of WhatsApp's catalogue feature.

If you offer several products, try starting with your most popular items. As you continue to build out your product offerings on the app, you can sort them into collections for easy browsing.

Promote your presence on other channels

WhatsApp isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” platform. Customers need to know your WhatsApp number to reach out.

Once your business profile is all set up, run a lightweight awareness campaign to let people know you’ll offer customer care through the platform. This might include an email to existing customers, promotions across other social media networks, and a quick update to your website’s “Contact Us” section.

Say “what’s up?” to WhatsApp marketing

Marketing with WhatsApp sits at the intersection of marketing and customer care, opening up new ways for brands to connect with fans and prospects alike. If your approach to messaging is more reactive than strategic, now is the time to use WhatsApp Business to step into the new normal.

If you want to learn more about messaging as a channel, then check out this guide we created in partnership with our friends at Zendesk. Use it to learn how to effectively integrate social messaging into your customer experience so you can prepare for the future of customer experience.