Viewpoint: WhatsApp Business a viable comms tool for SMEs

Read time 2min 50sec

Free instant messaging has long been popular, with WhatsApp in particular remaining a firm global favourite for more than a decade, says Pommie Lutchman, CEO and founder of customer engagement and digital experience solutions provider Ocular Technologies.

As of February, WhatsApp boasted over 1.5 billion active users across more than 180 countries, with a cool one million new users registering on the messaging platform per day. Of this user base, the average person checks the app more than 23 times per day, he says.

“Closer to home, the recently released We Are Social and Hootsuite Digital 2019 report states WhatsApp is SA’s most active social media platform. The study confirms that 90% of our 31 million local Internet users access the WhatsApp platform, making it a clear communications channel of choice for many South Africans,” notes Lutchman.

The launch of WhatsApp Business in January 2018, with the initial aim of assisting smaller companies to connect with their customers, has proven to be a profitable one for the platform.

The app has seen unprecedented growth over the past 18 months; more than three million organisations are now using the app as a method of direct communication with consumers.

Interestingly, 80% of small businesses within the Indian and Brazilian markets are using WhatsApp Business to provide customer care, and generally, 84% of SMEs selling goods and services say the direct communication achieved via the app is a major part of their success.

“One of the greatest benefits offered by WhatsApp Business is enhanced customer service. The app allows for direct, private, one-on-one communication with your clients in real-time, using a familiar – even preferred mode of communication – and encourages a two-way interaction. WhatsApp’s pervasive nature also means you can stay in contact with customers wherever they might be in the world,” explains Lutchman.

Organisations are able to set up a WhatsApp Business profile, which can include information such as Web site URLs, e-mail, phone numbers and social media links. The business profile is also branded with the company’s identity, making for a familiar look and feel for users.

WhatsApp Business profiles must be verified by WhatsApp, further reinforcing a customer’s feeling of security when opting in to company messages.

With WhatsApp Business, organisations are able to use ‘smart’ messaging tools to save and reuse messages in response to commonly asked questions, as well as to automate greeting or ‘away’ messages.

Companies can also access important statistics behind their sent messages to measure which ones were successfully delivered and read. Furthermore, the app provides a self-service option for customers to ask specific questions and make requests for information.

“Additionally, not only does WhatsApp Business provide for an excellent customer experience, it operates at a lower operational cost, which is obviously an attractive benefit for local businesses,” Lutchman points out.

“As part of Ocular Technologies’ focus on providing customer engagement solutions for the automation age, we have extended our omnichannel offering to now also include WhatsApp Business, allowing for progressive South African organisations to connect with their clients in a more personal way, taking their business communications to the next level.”

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