The arrival of WhatsApp for businesses is the strongest signal yet that messages through messaging platforms could soon replace email as the main way to communicate in the world of work.
Email has only been around for about three decades, and already it looks like it might be on the way out. In a mobile world, the ability to carry your office communications in your pocket and collaborate with colleagues through various apps and platforms, email seems like a relic of the desktop Internet era. Professionals in some industries no long bother to put an email address on their business card, which in itself is an item that should have become extinct before email.
With over a billion people using it every day, WhatsApp has conquered the world of messaging. During 2017, a study showed that users were sending 55 billion messages and 4.5 billion photos per day. For some time now, WhatsApp has been able to do anything your email can. You can broadcast messages to multiple contacts, attach documents and images and more.
Now with WhatsApp For Business, the aim is to enhance business-to-consumer communications that are already clearly being made faster and more personal through messaging services.
So what features is it offering for business users? To begin with, businesses can obtain a ‘Verified Business Account’ checkmark, just like Twitter verifies its famous users and businesses. This is part of the new marketing aspects of WhatsApp for Business which also include ‘Business Profiles’ whereby customers see can read a profile of the business, where its stores or offices are located, how to contact it and so on.
For marketers, there’s also a new opportunity to run digital campaigns on Facebook or Google for example that will send customers directly to the WhatsApp business account. This would be a game changer in customer led generation and sales.
There are also many smart messaging tools for customer service such as automatic replies, away messages, greetings and other typical electronic communications that allows customers to know that their request or inquiry has been received. In terms of managing customer data, businesses will have access to a dashboard of metrics like any other customer service platform. It will enable a business to see how many messages were received, read, sent and delivered. The aim is to offer companies as many aspects as possible of the customer communication experience.
Understanding that IT departments in companies will want more advanced functionality and tech support, there will be a WhatsApp enterprise solution later which, among other things, can be customized by business to reach their audience or customers at a large scale. Airlines, for instance, may send mass confirmations about flight times, tickets and various types of notifications.
This all sounds great, but there will be concerns of WhatsApp monopolizing this new strand of communication. Whereas email hosting and accounts can be offered by anyone, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which could end up controlling the bulk of corporate and personal communications worldwide. Concerns about this could slow the demise of email while other companies and industry bodies figure out how to create various global messaging platforms that can be securely controlled by corporations; and play their part too in this transformation.
Already Apple is set to introduce its “Business Chat” for users to communicate directly with businesses within iMessage. It will launch soon for iOS 11.3. So there are efforts underway by rival company’s to grab a share of the business-to-consumer messaging market.