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Whatsapp Business And The Future Of Customer Services and Communication

Whatsapp, the messaging juggernaut owned by social media giant Facebook, has announced its business only app Whatsapp Business aimed at small businesses on January 18, 2018.

The company has been working on a business app for a while now. Last year, Whatsapp had officially announced that it began working on a business version of its app. With the global launch, the app is now available globally. The app allows businesses to do a host of things, “WhatsApp Business is an Android app which is free to download and was built with the small business owner in mind. With the app, businesses can interact with customers easily by using tools to automate, sort, and quickly respond to messages”.

Whatsapp wrote in an official statement:

“People all around the world use WhatsApp to connect with small businesses they care about — from online clothing companies in India to auto parts stores in Brazil. But WhatsApp was built for people and we want to improve the business experience. For example, by making it easier for businesses to respond to customers, separating customer and personal messages, and creating an official presence.”

The app now offers a host of features including 1) business profile 2) Messaging tools 3) analytics and more

This was an expected move on the part of Whatsapp and is albeit a brilliant one for several reasons, given the fact that the company did not have a solid monetization effort up until now.

While messaging is incredibly valuable for mobile ecosystem, it is equally tricky to monetize in a non-intrusive manner through advertisements.

Whatsapp tried subscription once back in 2016, but the company quickly dropped the idea. Line and WeChat and a few other messaging apps have found some innovative ways to monetize, for instance, Line sells sticker.

Although Whatsapp business is free for businesses, for now, it can safely bet that this will ultimately be turned into the cash-cow for the company and there are enough opportunities to do so. More on that in a moment.

Mobile, messaging, customer service and Bangladesh

I wrote in in EBL Launches AI-enabled Chatbot, Mobile’s Killer App, Banking’s New Reality and EBL’s Real Gains:

“Social media has effectively disrupted shopping and eCommerce in Dhaka giving way to a lot of small entrepreneurs to start and build businesses. Messaging has been seeing a huge growth and we suspect messaging coupled with chatbot will influence how companies offer customer services in Dhaka.

The essential connection between mobile and chatbot is messaging. Messaging is the killer app of mobile. That’s why Facebook bought WhatsApp for billions of dollars and investors go crazy when it comes to mobile-first anything.

Mobile is the ultimate platform and messaging is the heart of that platform.

This is why it is so fascinating to see a local private bank to take advantage of a tech trend that is likely to change how brand and consumer interact with each other.

Mobile is the next step in the consumer-brand interaction and chatbot, powered by AI is the way to go.”

Messaging is slowly replacing customer service as we know it. At the same time, any relationship that takes place in a mobile ecosystem is way more intimate than the interaction that takes place on any other platform.

Whatsapp business is primarily aiming at customer interaction point. It not only offers you to maintain instant communication with your customers through messaging, it also says, you can “automate” the entire process using Whatsapp platform. The need for designing a separate bot becomes redundant. On the top of that, Whatsapp offers you a base of one billion users globally.

This is an important development, not only for Whatsapp as a company as well as for overall communication industry. As I mentioned earlier, mobile is the most intimate device and messaging is so far the most personalized form of communication. And when you own that, your opportunity to explore other areas is almost infinite.

While the initial offering from Whatsapp business is strictly around communication and customer service, I suspect the company will soon get into promotion and advertising. The setting of personalized nature of the medium makes it even more effective for personalized communication.

When you have regular chat with your customers over the phone via messaging, it means you have a relationship of trust and reliability between you two and you can essentially send him new offers according to his needs. This, in fact, makes communication even better.

This is particularly relevant for Bangladesh, given the fact that we are a mobile-first nation. While this will change many things, it will also offer new opportunities to digital marketing companies to explore new growth opportunities by enabling businesses to take advantage of this new development. I wrote in mobile is eating Bangladesh:

“Over the past years, Bangladesh has experienced unprecedented growth in mobile phone penetration. According to BTRC, the country has over 117 million mobile phone subscribers and growing. Bangladesh is a true mobile-first nation, according to data from StatCounter GlobalStats, in February 2017, more than 73% of internet users came through mobile whereas the number was only 25% for desktop. Although feature-phone dominates the overall usage, the country has also been seeing an extraordinary smartphone growth, thanks to cheap Chinese handset.

This has implications not only for tech but also for many other industries. People spend an unusually high amount of time with their handheld devices. Moreover, mobile allows users to do things on the go. As a result, mobile is changing how we communicate, consume, shop and transact. In the coming years, it will change many other aspects of our daily life.

Understanding mobile and its implications on our life and living is one of our obsessions at FS. Over the past years, we have closely followed the growth of MFS, smartphone, mobile internet, digital health services, various on-demand services and more.”

Messaging has been considered as the killer app of mobile and tech future of customer interaction for a while now and with the new announcement, Whatsapp Business simply put itself at the forefront of that development.

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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