The Whatsapp newsletter is history. Many companies are now wondering how to keep contacting their customers. Whatsapp has developed special business solutions for this. An overview.
“Your vehicle is being cleaned and will be ready for collection shortly.” Anyone who returns their car to the BMW headquarters in Munich for inspection and asks about the processing status can automatically receive this message on their smartphone. BMW is one of the users of the WhatsApp business solutions and offers a workshop service via messenger at its headquarters. Instead of sending the calls from around 200 customers to the call center every day, a Whatsapp bot now primarily answers.
This automation is a great relief and improvement, explains service manager Albert Rösch from the Munich branch: “We receive around 3,800 inquiries from customers per month, of which we answer around 3,000 automatically.” Rösch continues: “The callback requests have been canceled 60 percent decreased and the recommendation rate increased to 90 percent. “
The example from BMW shows the blueprint of WhatsApp use by companies, as the parent company Facebook envisions in the future. The still quite new Whatsapp Business service is available with special functions for companies – either as a messenger platform based on an API or as a separate Whatsapp business app for smartphones. The previous frequent and only tolerated use of WhatsApp as a newsletter channel, however, will end on December 7, 2019 – also for business applications.
Even if companies complain about the discontinuation of the Whatsapp newsletter, the reality for users looks different, according to a current Yougov survey for Greven Medien: Only six percent thought a newsletter was important and would have subscribed to one. 58 percent were not interested in promotional information at all. With the exception of twelve percent of those surveyed who wanted news sites and blogs to offer, Whatsapp users want to engage in dialogues and not consume any content. Instead, a specific benefit, a service via Whatsapp, is important to them: from local restaurants (eleven percent), online shops (eleven percent), shops (eight percent) and travel providers (seven percent).
The rumor mill about the reasons for the newsletter is still simmering. Some suspect that Whatsapp could offer its own newsletter service in the future. On the other hand, however, the multiple emphasis on the dialogue function of the platform on the part of Facebook and the lack of user interest speak. If you want to continue to distribute newsletters via messenger, you have to encourage your WhatsApp subscribers to migrate to another platform: Apple offers a business chat with push messages and Telegram can also be an alternative. In the long term, however, the topic will appear less and less; it seems that neither providers nor users want to receive newsletters.
Companies use WhatsApp for this
In principle, Whatsapp does not allow companies to send marketing messages via their own service, and upselling within notifications is also not permitted . On the other hand, it is allowed to refer to ad spaces outside of Whatsapp in the channel in order to encourage customers to contact you. Then the sale or the sales process can be carried out via the conversation initiated by the customer. However, the trade guidelines must be observed , which contain some restrictions with regard to the products approved for sale via Whatsapp, such as medicines, tobacco or alcohol.
Examples of Whatsapp services can be found with big names like the Dutch airline KLM, which sends flight information and documents. The online marketplace Wish offers the possibility to track the order status. The travel portal Booking.com sends booking confirmations and travel updates to customers. But also small companies like the Baden snack stand from Dampfnudel-Paule use Whatsapp to take orders and prepare them for collection.
Whatsapp Business: App, Web or API
Facebook offers Whatsapp Business in three versions: as a simple app for iOS and Android, as a web or desktop app for Mac and PC, and as a Whatsapp Business API. The first variants are aimed more at small companies, the API at medium-sized to larger companies, because it enables program-controlled and automated communication with the customer.
For small businesses: Whatsapp business app
The business app can be run parallel to the customer app with an existing account – taking into account the data protection restrictions in the address book. The company account is created directly in the app. The specified landline or mobile phone number is verified by SMS or voice call. The web or Mac / PC version is started via a QR code in the smartphone app. Smartphone and web / desktop version can be used in parallel, but the company account cannot be used by several people on different devices. A multi-user version is only available in the APIand with corresponding providers. The website integration of a button with which customers contact via Whatsapp works relatively easily using a shortlink according to this scheme: wa.me/yournumber.
For medium to large companies: Whatsapp Business API
The API can be used in two ways: On the one hand, to run and develop your own application on your own server using the API client provided by Whatsapp. Or pre-configured via Docker for operation on Amazon Web Services. Access to the API must be requested, because so far Facebook has manually activated access to the API, which is only publicly accessible to a limited extent. If access is granted, the company account can be set up via the Facebook Business Manager under “Accounts / Whatsapp”. For all other companies, the so-called solution providers are there, who usually offer ready-made SaaS applications for the API and can register company accounts.
There are no fixed costs associated with using the API, but there may be costs for sending messages. If a customer contacts the company, the conversation is free for the following 24 hours, after which 0.0733 euros per message are charged. The company can ask the customer to resume the previous day’s conversation and there will be no charge for an additional 24 hours. Template messages are always charged.
Provider for applications via the Whatsapp API
Anyone who chooses a service provider who is registered as a WhatsApp business solution provider for their messenger marketing can usually also use the connection to other messenger systems. The provider Messenger people integrates, for example, Whatsapp, Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Notify, Telegram and Viber. In the entry-level tariff, the messenger platform can be used from 99 euros per month, each additional employee account costs an additional 99 euros.
The platforms often bring automation functions such as chatbots, message templates and quick replies as well as connection options to external systems, but also offer user administration, ticket systems, smaller CRM functions and statistical evaluations. In addition to complete messaging platforms represent about Message Bird and Novomind Messaging also a pure API access is available that requires no monthly fee. Most services, however, incur four-digit setup fees. All of the providers mentioned ensure that they work in compliance with the GDPR and, in addition to generic order data processing contracts, also offer the conclusion of individual contracts.
GDPR and Whatsapp
Whatsapp Business takes into account the requirements of the GDPR. There are data processing conditions, but no direct contract for order data processing. Phil Salewski from the IT law firm in Munich assesses the deployment as GDPR-compliant if certain requirements are met. The most important points:
The two variants app (mobile, web or desktop) and API differ somewhat in terms of the requirements for proper use in terms of data protection law. Under no circumstances should the app have access to a smartphone address book with customer data whose owners have not consented to Whatsapp use. The simplest solution is a device with an empty address book in which the customers registered for the Whatsapp service are entered first.
In any case, the customer must give consent to communication. In the app, the customer must therefore actively contact the entrepreneur and give him his number. If the customer is to receive ongoing notifications, a double opt-in must be made, for example by saving the company’s number in their own phone book and sending a start message – and at any time has the option of canceling a service message subscription. Whatsapp also requires that every opt-in has a specific contextual reference, for example “receipt of a payment confirmation”.
To use the API, a data processing contract must be concluded with the respective processor, for example with Amazon Web Services or a SaaS service provider such as Messenger people.
Many companies want a medium that distributes marketing messages and newsletters with better open rates. At the moment there is much to suggest that this wish will not come true. Facebook is rigorous here, and even if other companies such as Viber or Telegram remain open to newsletter use.
And that should be reasonable. The better open rates are probably due to the fact that the Whatsapp chat is not yet as flooded with marketing as the classic email inbox. If the development of messengers continued in the same way as the use of e-mail, the services would soon be just as overloaded. Direct and fast communication with the customer will be the topic of the future for messengers. However, this requires a high degree of automation, greater professionalism and, above all, more speed than the maintenance of social media channels. Those who score here can gain a competitive advantage.