Witnessing the advent of WhatsApp as a serious marketplace contender

Oct 3, 2023


At a Glance...

Is WhatsApp set to be the next arm in Meta’s marketing empire?

Senior Performance Manager Pierre Daudre-Vignier takes a deep dive into the latest additions to the messaging app used by almost everyone: Flows & Channels.

Not only could these features become prime real estate for marketeers, but they signal a ‘super app’ expansion to the likes of China’s WeChat.

Last week, WhatsApp announced two new features: WhatsApp Flows and and WhatsApp Channels. These features puts WhatsApp in a much more interesting place for marketers than it was previously.

WhatsApp Channels…

WhatsApp Channels is a novel way for users to stay up-to-date with brands and individuals of interest. It presents itself as a one-way chat between the brand and it’s users, with only the brand being able to actually send messages. Large international brands and influencers have already adopted the feature. Manchester United and The Daily Mail are among those are pushing images and content on to their followers’ devices multiple times a day. The feature is relatively straight forward from both a creator and a user perspective – simply create/follow an account and push/receive content. It is also a solid alternative to Threads or X for consumers to receive updates and content from the creators and brands they love. Channels is the latest addition to the WhatsApp social ecosystem, along with Communities and Updates. The feature is exclusively organic and requires an element of awareness for users to follow the brands, as it currently supports no paid way to promote the channel.

… and WhatsApp Flows

WhatsApp Flows is a vastly more complex feature, currently reserved for WhatsApp businesses in limited regions (India and Brazil to begin with). It requires a deeper integration between the business and WhatsApp. This integration then allows for businesses to interact with customers in new ways. From booking appointments and events, customising products, or filling out forms,  to picking seats on a flight, and much more. WhatsApp Flows also offers business a WhatsApp log-in as an alternative to creating a user. Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company, describes the Flows merchant experience as a series of building blocks (from text box, to calendars, to seat picker etc) to build the chat interface for users. Meta is working on developing a richer chat experience to turn WhatsApp into a retail option.

So… what does all of this mean for Digital Marketers?

This combination of new updates augurs an interesting future for WhatsApp. Pushing news and being able to take bookings through a single touchpoint is quite desirable for retail businesses. Whilst there is no e-commerce hosted on WhatsApp at the moment, it’s not hard to see how this may be the next step. Indeed, Meta’s VP of Business Messaging Nikila Srinivasan said that shopping and e-commerce are the two of the biggest verticals of interest for WhatsApp.

Looking eastwards, we can glimpse at what WhatsApp may be aiming to become – a Western alternative to WeChat. WhatsApp Business already ticks many of the WeChat boxes: CRM support, a developing ecosystem, and some analytics options already exist in WhatsApp. The only key feature currently missing is that of a WhatsApp Store. Meta’s main networks already feature these – Facebook Shop and Instagram Shopping. The company already has plenty of experience in rolling these features to consumers, so it isn’t a stretch to imagine one coming to WhatsApp soon.

Pierre Daudre-Vignier, Senior Performance Marketing Manager

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