“WhatsApp is being used by brands to generate leads as well as manage customer service at a more micro level,” Apeksha Harihar, Editor of ‘Social Samosa’, a social media news portal in India, told advertising and marketing hub ‘Warc’ in a recent interview. Brands in India are now maximising the potential to connect with the 65-million or more regional customers who currently use the app.
According to ‘Warc’, Indian luxury and premium brands are using the platform to deal with customer queries, transmit photographs to showcase new products, and organise home deliveries in areas where physical stores aren’t available.
Also looking to connect with customers in new and innovative ways, the Brazilian operation of FMCG giant, Unilever, facilitated WhatsApp messaging between chefs and consumers in its WhatsCook promotion for the Hellman’s Mayonnaise brand. The promotion, designed to help consumers tackle the daily issue of what to cook using only the ingredients in their fridge, saw chefs provided tips on integrating the mayonnaise into meals. Explained ‘Warc’: “For 10 days, Hellmann’s allowed consumers to register for WhatsCook on a dedicated website and then receive one-on-one guidance on making a bespoke meal from a chef via WhatsApp.”
The campaign’s success was evident by the online buzz it created. Speaking at the recent SM2 Innovation Summit, organised by the US Mobile Marketing Association and held in New York City, Unilever’s Digital Marketing Manager in Brazil, Thana Uchino, discussed the brand’s gains from the promotion. “The main learning was that it’s not about just advertising; it’s about creating a relevant service; it’s about creating real conversations, real connections with consumers; and answering a real need in the exact moment that they are needing your help,” she said.
According to the South African ‘Social Media Landscape 2014 Research Study’, released by technology market researchers World Wide Worx and social network analytics company Fuseware, WhatsApp is the most popular app in the Android, Apple and Windows app stores in SA – suggesting its massive local potential for distributing marketing messages.
The immediacy the app offers is also especially attractive, as the study revealing a 271-minute average response time from South African brands addressing customer queries on competing social network Twitter. “Taking more than four hours to respond to a customer in such an immediate environment shows a gap in social media that needs to be closed,” said Mike Wronski, MD of Fuseware.
Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Cell C recently became the first Sap-based mobile network to offer free WhatsApp to its customers as part of its summer marketing campaign. The move might also be indicative of the brand looking at potential routes for future consumer engagement.
Considering that sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing and second-largest mobile technology market after Asia (according to Gallup statistics), marketers targeting the continent may wish to consider how they can capitalise on this trend.
In Zimbabwe, for example, Econet Wireless announced in May that WhatsApp now accounted for more than 23% of network activity, highlighting the success of the company’s new unlimited WhatsApp bundle to accompany its Facebook service plan.
Significantly, however, it’s not just brands and mobile networks which are paying attention to the penetration offered by WhatsApp in Africa. The international technology website ‘Tech Crunch’ reported in October that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had started a new account on WhatsApp to update people in West Africa – and around the world – about the Ebola outbreak.
According to the website: “The BBC has worked with WhatsApp as well as other messaging apps like WeChat, BBM, Line and Mixit in the past on news alerts – for example, to broadcast information around elections in India and South Africa. But the BBC says it is the first time that it has used WhatsApp for a health alert service.”