How can retailers use the WhatsApp Business API to improve the shopping experience?

WhatsApp is undeniably one of the most influential digital communications channels with more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. The messaging channel has evolved beyond its original use of personal communications to encompass an even wider audience with the successful launch of the WhatsApp for small business app.

Following the success of the small business app, WhatsApp Business recently released an API for large scale enterprise communications. With the channel now in reach of customer-centric enterprises, businesses are looking to capitalise on the consumer channel of choice to enrich discussions and provide great customer experiences.

Through WhatsApp’s two-way messaging capability, retailers have a unique opportunity to create personalised interactions that entirely differentiate the experience.

Here are just 5 ways WhatsApp can address common pain points shared by retailers to transform the customer journey:

1. Embrace automation to improve customer service

58% of consumers are using their smartphones to shop, an increase of 12 million or 66% compared to 2018. Mobile-first consumers will actively seek out more convenient self-service options to resolve an issue they may have when shopping.

Using a combination of WhatsApp and automation, retailers can seamlessly encourage self-service options. Automated responses can then act as the first point of contact for both new
and existing customers.

The automated replies act as an online assistant, greeting customers, helping to answer common questions across account recovery and stock checks. When all self-service options have been exhausted the conversation can be picked up by customer services. WhatsApp also removes the need for the customer to repeat aspects of their original query for a frustration-free transfer.

In less than a year, it’s predicted that 25% of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants through similar methods. Forward-thinking retailers can take advantage of this significant customer service differentiator. This helps deflect generic calls away from the contact centre to a messaging-based self-serve channel.

2. Recommend related products and upsell

Despite reports of our declining high street, many consumers still value the role of a sales assistant. The one-to-one level of service found in-store, across recommendations and advice is still highly appreciated. Delivering the same level of personalised recommendation through digital messaging combines the experience of in-store shopping with the speed and convenience of mobile.

Customers can submit a simple enquiry through WhatsApp, detailing what they’re looking for. Retailers can then use rich media features such as videos and image carousels to suggest appropriate products. The same process can be further enriched using previous purchase history to share recommendations.

Once customers are ready to purchase, they can complete the transaction using a SmartLink to access a payment screen. This process creates a seamless journey from enquiry through to purchase.

Recommending products through WhatsApp Business helps to drive revenue while delivering a highly personalised experience for each customer.

3. Increase loyalty program engagement

Although loyalty programs have largely been replaced by digital alternatives over the years, they remain a staple of retail marketing engagement. Digitised loyalty schemes ensure customers have a clear view of available rewards, often through the retailer’s app or online portal.

While loyalty programs may be more mobile-friendly, the challenge of encouraging use and uptake remains. The main hurdle for customers using retail loyalty programs to their full extent centres around the app-led approach to access. Customers are required to use roaming data, phone storage and will need to sign in before they can benefit from the scheme.

As an alternative, customers can use WhatsApp Business to track and manage their loyalty points on the go. Using WhatsApp also enables customers to engage with personalised offers, search available rewards and respond to targeted notifications.

Crucially, this can all be done through an app already stored on customer’s smartphones. Removing the need to download anything new means engaging with your loyalty program has never been simpler, or more accessible.

4. Algin the digital and in-store experience

The future of retail isn’t physical, or exclusively digital; it’s a hybrid of both. The key differentiator for retailers is the experience they offer, one that is entirely aligned across all platforms and channels.

The likes of Amazon with it’s checkout-free ‘Amazon Go‘ retail spaces recognise this. Amazon is enabling consumers to shop in physical space without forgoing the speed and convenience of e-commerce.

A similar journey can be delivered through WhatsApp Business, linking the in-store and digital experiences. The channel enables customers to book time with a personal shopper (an idea Bonobos ran with, and succeeded), organise collection times and return online purchases.

For in-store staff, WhatsApp can be used to look up customer accounts, previous purchases and recommended products. Offering a much more personalised experience increases the value of visiting a physical store.

5. Supporting seamless delivery and returns

From the moment an order is placed, retailers can share personalised real-time updates through WhatsApp until the parcel is delivered.

The channel can also handle real-time responses, enabling customers to amend their delivery preferences or flag issues with almost immediate effect. Through the two-way conversation channel it’s easy to find out tracking details, select a ‘safe place’ for drop off or choose a collection point.

Couriers can use the channel to collect digital signatures and send photos of ‘safe place’ deliveries for peace of mind. WhatsApp can also streamline the returns process, scheduling collections, requesting exchange forms or submitting photo evidence.

Customers can enjoy the same convenience and speed they experienced during their purchase through to delivery and when necessary across returns and exchanges. Using digital channels to manage distribution and returns improves operational efficiency and customer
satisfaction.

Start using WhatsApp Business to transform your retail experience

Building stronger customer relationships through personalised communications, all delivered through their preferred channels ensures your business reaps the rewards while providing a better customer experience.

WhatsApp Business enables retailers to seamlessly meet the changing expectations of today’s smart, connected customer. If you would like to learn more speak to one of our specialists.

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