Every day, hundreds of people in India are joining the world wide web for the first time in their lives. In a country that was virtually offline just years ago, more than 500 million people are now able to access everything the Internet has to offer. As the country enters this Internet boom, more and more people are using the web for eCommerce shopping. While giant eCommerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon hold a majority of the business, an unlikely player is also popping up across India - WhatsApp. This free download messenger is changing the way small businesses operate in India.
What is WhatsApp?
Whatsapp is a free, downloadable messenger app for smartphones that is owned by Facebook. It uses the internet to send messages, images, audio and video. It is beloved by customers internationally for allowing people to connect across the globe without outrageous fees. Over 1 billion users worldwide use the encrypted messaging service to safely send messages via the web.
Similar to the Internet boom, more and more people in India are joining the smartphone revolution. There are about 650 million mobile phone users in India; about half have a smartphone. With more people gaining access to this innovative technology, the number of WhatsApp users in India is also on the rise. With over 160 million active users, India has quickly become WhatsApp’s biggest market. While some customers are using the app to talk with friends and family, an increasing amount of people are also using the app for business transactions.
WhatsApp for Business
India has 51 million small businesses across the country. They account for more than 37% of India’s $2 trillion GDP. About half of those small businesses have a digital footprint. While some business owners have opted for a website, some small retailers are turning to WhatsApp to gain business. The informal platform is especially useful for small, local vendors, like farmers. Farmers and food vendors are able to take pictures and videos of their products and send it to their regular customers on WhatsApp. This allows customers to see what fresh products are up for sale that day before placing an order.
Recently, WhatsApp made its entry into the digital payment space. This has changed the game for Indian retailers. Now, not only can they send pictures of their products to large groups of customers, the customers can also pay for goods and services right through the app.
So far, WhatsApp has been a successful digital payment service, because customers in India already trust the app. As previously stated, hundreds of millions of people use WhatsApp regularly for personal use. WhatsApp features end-to-end encryption, which means your conversation is completely private. It allows users to feel safe when talking to friends and family about any controversial topic. That same trust is translated into the realm of payment. Customers trust that WhatsApp won’t misuse or lose their credit card and payment info.
Marketing Via WhatsApp
With the growth of social messaging platforms like WhatsApp, e-mails are on the decline. This means e-mail marketing isn’t as effective as it once was. Instead of investing in e-mails, companies are getting with the times, and promoting their goods and services through WhatsApp instead. Marketing via WhatsApp can actually be simple. When companies receive a customer or lead, instead of asking for their email address, they can ask for customers’ WhatsApp phone number. Then, in a mass group message they can send out specific deals or coupons.
This type of marketing also allows for personalized promotions. If a company notices a customer ordering the same meal every week, they can send a coupon for that specific item. Similarly, they can send a promotion for a different, yet similar item on the menu, to try and have the customer branch out. These promotions are sent straight though the app via the messaging platform. This gives the marketing materials a personal touch, and can make the customer feel like they are truly valued.
Instant Customer Support
Nearly every major company in the world offers some sort of digital customer support system. If you log onto a social media platform like Twitter, you can easily find hundreds of irritated customers reaching out to companies for help. Instead of turning to the web, customers can receive the same fast, digital help in a private chat via WhatsApp. Since companies are sharing their WhatsApp phone numbers with customers for marketing purposes, customers can respond with specific inquiries. For farmers, a customer can ask about what produce is ripe. If clothing store, customers can ask to return their garments for a bigger size. The examples can go on and on.
This instant customer support allows companies to grow and adapt. By allowing these personal messages, companies can quickly receive feedback about their products. This information is extremely valuable, because the more you understand your customers and their needs, the more your company can thrive.