With an increasing number of over 40’s signing up to open social networks i.e. Facebook and Twitter, it is no surprise to see younger generations waving goodbye in favour of private social networks and messaging apps - Hello WhatsApp and Snapchat! With a growing user base of predominantly under 25’s in the UK, brands looking to target this demographic have a potentially exciting new opportunity to reach out to them. Today we will discuss how brands could monetise WhatsApp and what the future looks like for brands on this platform.

WhatsApp doc?

Created in 2009 by former Yahoo! employees, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, WhatsApps key focus was on ‘No Ads, No Games, No Gimmicks'. Its first four years were more successful than Facebook's first four years - 200 million WhatsApp users to Facebook’s 100 million - and having reached 600 million active users worldwide, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for 19 billion dollars. With both WhatsApp founders stating “there would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product”, you may question how brands can possibly monetise this private messaging app?

Personal Communication - Customer Service

Consumers have never been more demanding, expecting their queries and complaints to be addressed by businesses in next to no time thanks to 24-7 connectivity. If it isn’t dealt with efficiently, negative opinions will begin to form and it’s likely the customer will look elsewhere to satisfy their needs. As such, immense pressure is placed on businesses in order to retain their customers in the online space.

Twitter has been very popular amongst consumers seeking guidance however, the 140 character restriction and inability to send private messages unless both parties follow each other are just two of the many problems this platform has when it comes to customer-brand communication. Enter WhatsApp - with no character restrictions and the ability to send multimedia content inclusive of photos, videos and even voice messages - providing modern day consumers with the ability to ask sensitive/private questions and receive a quick, personal response, this platform could be used to enhance a customer's overall brand experience. In adopting this innovative approach to customer service, customers are given freedom to ask questions and provide critical feedback without fear of it being public or being stored in the digital space forever, whilst brands can build relationships with key customers, increasing retention levels and positive word of mouth.

Instant Reviews

Have you ever delayed a purchase as you wanted to research its effectiveness/quality/alternatives? You’re not alone - up to 81% of us research online before purchasing, particularly younger, tech savvy customers. As such, forward-thinking brands can monetise this by providing first-hand advice through a Whatsapp customer service portal. Currently, the scanning of QR codes and the likes can direct customers to a website to review products however, if taking a photo of a product and sending it to WhatsApp can provide instant reviews from the customer service team, this will not only nurture the customer relationship with the brand, the customer will also be more likely to exert loyalty to the business in the future.

Be useful - give customers what they want

Perfect for offering one-to-one customer assistance and targeted information, Hellmann’s utilised Whatsapp to great success with a WhatsCook group serving up tips to an interested and opted-in audience.

Additionally, the Oxford Mail Newspaper - the first British newspaper to do so - now offers news straight to your phone each morning and evening. Although designed to engage the audience and encourage readership its essential brands tread carefully and ensure they give customers exactly what they want without bombarding them with irrelevant information. As this is a simple messaging service where no personal details are required, customers benefit from an additional mode of communication, whilst brands benefit from customer satisfaction and loyalty. Win, Win!

While there are no immediate guarantees of money-making via WhatsApp, as a potential marketing and client-servicing tool there are multiple benefits. Happy customers lead to loyal customers which, in turn, leads to greater conversions and ROI online. Although relatively new, businesses such as Hellmanns, Oxford Mail and Absolut Vodka have been successful using the platform and it could be you next.

To find out how brands can make the most of one of the newer platforms to the social/private messaging scene - Snapchat, see the second part in our blog series here.