walking and texting
WhatsApp announced its first monetization move post-Facebook acquisition with WhatsApp for Business, but was light on details of how it would play out PHOTO: Adam Freidin

Menlo Park, Calif.-based WhatsApp is home to 1.2 billion people who chat, share, call and soon — thanks to WhatsApp for Business — receive customer care. 

The Facebook-owned messaging app recently announced WhatsApp Business accounts via its website, “In the coming months, we'll be testing new features that aim to solve some of these challenges, and make it easier for people to communicate with the businesses they want to reach on WhatsApp,” the blog post reads.

WhatsApp’s Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema told the Wall Street Journal (paywall) that, although WhatsApp is yet to figure out the details, “We do intend on charging businesses in the future.”

Finally, WhatsApp for Enterprise

It’s not rocket science — an app with over 1 billion users is certainly somewhere a major brand wants to be in some shape or form, but before now, enterprises had no official way to approach customers on WhatsApp on a large scale. But with WhatsApp Business, enterprises finally have a way in.

CMSWire spoke to customer experience expert and founder of messaging product provider Teckst Mike Tumbleson, and he agreed brands want to make better use of WhatsApp:

“There is a massive appetite for large enterprises to get on board with WhatsApp. Businesses are keen to meet their customers on their preferred channels, and more than a billion customers use WhatsApp on the regular,” he said.

“The biggest benefit is that by opening mobile messaging channels, companies can reduce the number of expensive phone calls and increase customer satisfaction through relationship-building. It's win-win for both enterprises and customers.”

The only problem would be ensuring enterprises have the tools to handle the deluge of messages that would result from opening their doors on WhatsApp. The program is currently in a closed pilot program and the company was short on technical details.

Customers Control WhatsApp Interactions

WhatsApp Business won’t just be a way for brands to message and be messaged, and Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands-based KLM Airlines, one of the first companies to be verified on WhatsApp via the WhatsApp Business pilot program, has proven that.

“KLM wants to be where her customers are. Therefore she wants to be present on WhatsApp,” KLM’s press officer Koen Van Zijl told CMSWire.

Van Zijl went on to explain that in a typical day on WhatsApp, KLM receives over 1,000 incoming messages and sends almost 700 booking confirmations, 650 boarding passes and over 150 flight status updates.

KLM also uses WhatsApp for Business to serve boarding passes, share links that allow customers to buy add-ons, alert customers to delays and more.

When asked about the unique benefits of WhatsApp as a customer service tool, Van Zijl pointed out the convenience the app brings customers:

“If a customer has a question at any stage in the KLM WhatsApp process, s/he can ask it immediately via WhatsApp Direct message. The social media hub will answer questions in nine languages,” he continued.

“Our customers decide when they want to approach us. I am sure this approach would work for other enterprises as well,” Van Zijl said.

'WhatsApp is Trying to Fix Something That Isn’t Broken'

Interestingly though, not all brands are convinced by WhatsApp’s latest offering.

Dallas-based data-driven marketing agency Ansira is among the skeptics. CMSWire spoke to Ansira’s director of marketing, Maddison Tailor, for her reasons why.

“I’m not convinced large enterprise companies would see much of a benefit from providing updates to consumers through WhatsApp. Most of the larger companies already have their own apps, email delivery and text delivery systems in place designed to atomically deliver the types of notifications WhatsApp can provide, such as delivery confirmations and flight times,” Tailor said.

“More than 50 percent of US travelers have at least one airline app downloaded on their phone, which can deliver the same updates, and most large retailers have chat features in place on their existing apps and websites allowing customers to chat in real time. The bottom line is it seems like WhatsApp is trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” She claimed.

This is the app’s first foray into monetization since Facebook acquired it for $19 billion in 2014, and while consumers will be pleased to hear their pockets are safe, enterprises will need to think about a WhatsApp marketing strategy that will get the most bang for their WhatsApp bucks.