While the public has begun to appreciate that WhatsApp’s privacy rules are in fact still very much in favour of the user, with messages sent remaining private and encrypted at all times, what will this mean for brands that use the app to reach and engage with consumers?
“The benefits for brands are massive,” says Kyle Oosthuizen, chief operating Officer at Blue Robot, creators of messaging solutions that allow brands to communicate with their audience at scale.
“These updates form part of Facebook’s efforts to make communicating with a business secure, better and easier for everyone. The new updates will be made to business features that will help businesses engage with their users in a more intuitive and more advanced way. 2021 is the year that WhatsApp will be rolling out more ad products and features for businesses, but it will also be looking to monetise the app to a greater degree and deliver better services for users.
“WhatsApp is the most pervasive messaging app in South Africa, and it’s free for the user. Facebook is navigating that balance between maintaining a compelling user experience, whilst funding it by giving brands access to the WhatsApp audience, but with strict protocols in place to protect privacy.”
As to what exactly is changing, he says it will be a superior level of customer service; the ability to discover and interact with businesses, and a more shoppable experience.
“Additionally, with the development of Click2WhatsApp ads – which Blue Robot helped to BETA launch in South Africa – brands can reach a targeted audience on Instagram or Facebook, who can simply click on an ad that takes them directly into the WhatsApp conversation with the brand. Previously, the user journey would have many hurdles from an ad to a conversation on WhatsApp with a brand. Now, the process is far smoother by enabling users to simply click on a WhatsApp button below the ad,” Oosthuizen adds.
WhatsApp will also be introducing product lists, carousels and the ability to process payments within WhatsApp – all of which will enhance users’ ability to transact on the platform and engage with brands on a more commercial level – making conversational commerce a big opportunity for brands in the future.
Despite the positives for brands, some WhatsApp users aren’t so sure and have tried competitors like Telegram and Signal (with the former seeing a 91% increase in downloads and the latter a 4 200% increase in the week following WhatsApp’s initial announcement).
While Blue Robot has the capabilities to build chat solutions on Telegram for brand engagement, it is evident that it would be a risky undertaking as they have little to no rules and regulation.
“On the other hand, WhatsApp’s new updates mean that regulation will be stricter and a more brand-safe environment which could potentially mean the roll out of more ad products in future,” Oosthuizen explains. “Part of Blue Robot’s process with brands is to get them a verified business profile on WhatsApp, giving consumers peace of mind that they are communicating with the official business account.
“All in all, WhatsApp’s policy updates will be a boon for brands. Users should also rest assured knowing that their personal messages and calls will remain private and that the processing, storage and usage of their data is subject to global data protection acts.”
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