Thursday, April 18, 2024
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    WhatsApp Business: the new normal for online customer interaction

    WhatsApp is increasingly where it’s at for customer interaction – but what does that mean in practice? Jean Shin explains

    The rise of digitisation has transformed all industries, leading to more and more customers bypassing their local stores and engaging with e-commerce, which is projected to surpass $4.8 trillion globally.

    This shift is especially true in a world changed by COVID-19. Nowadays, large numbers of customers are moving online, and many analysts predict this shift will become permanent.

    In the US alone, 68% of shoppers say they’re likely to keep buying

    essential goods online after the health threats of COVID-19 have subsided, according to Salesforce.

    Online retailers are still facing new and existing challenges, including providing a range of tailored delivery options, so customers feel safe when they receive orders and managing the increasing demand for customer services as consumers continue to order from home, and are less willing to go to physical stores or branches for support.

    They also face the challenge of countering the risk of losing personalized 1:1 conversations that brands typically create in-store and rolling out digital channels that support conversations, but are not impersonal and distant.

    The rise of digital clienteling

    The personal touch matters: 80% of self-classified ‘frequent shoppers’ will only shop with brands who personalize their experience, according to SmarterHQ. The ‘new normal’ brought about by the pandemic has effectively shelved opportunities for in-store interactions.

    To counteract this, forward-thinking brands are turning to ‘digital clienteling,’ offering personalized, scalable conversations.

    Clienteling is a customer service technique used by brands to create long-term relationships based on customer buying preferences. While clienteling is commonly associated with the luxury sector, its usage is increasing amongst other sectors.

    Digital clienteling done right can increase conversion and loyalty rates, reduce the number of abandoned carts, and improve efficiency in core processes like shipping and returned packages, despite the pandemic.

    But which channel is most suited to creating and supporting such customer conversations in a post-COVID-19 world? Turns outs the answer is smartphone-based chat apps—and specifically, WhatsApp and Viber.

    According to Campaign Monitor, traditional digital channels are struggling: only 20% of emails are opened compared to 98% of all mobile messages. With messaging applications booming among millennials and Generation Z it’s no wonder using WhatsApp as a primary engagement channel is set to become essential for future-facing brands.

    Three sectors already acing digital clienteling

    1. Banking

    The retail banking sector is going through seismic change, its use of fintech moving consumers away from making in-branch visits or relying on call centres and accessing banking services online.

    While there were signs that customer acceptance of digitization was beginning to plateau, the pandemic has acted as a significant catalyst for digital adoption because of global lockdowns. In Europe alone, there has been a 72% rise in the use of fintech apps according to research by deVere Group.

    Messaging applications like WhatsApp and Viber are already transforming the customer experience in banking, with major banks worldwide leveraging them to forge deeper relations with their customers. Here’s how:

    • Covering the basics – Messaging applications are now used to offer a range of essential banking services that customers rely on day in, day out. For instance, First Ukrainian International Bank and Nepal-based Sunrise Bank allow their customers to use messaging platforms to check account balances, receive mini-statements, request information about nearby ATM locations, view current interest rates on loans/account types, display bank opening hours and locations and more.

    Customer service example by credit card company Tarjeta Plan Platino in Argentina.

    • Boosting customer happiness – As well as providing simple services, banks are also using ‘to connect more deeply with customers via two-way comms. For instance, VTB Bank in Belarus switched to Viber Business Messages to reduce paper-based comms, which in turn drove up engagement rates.

    By choosing to deliver promotions, services, and selected customer services using the platform, the bank has seen half of its customers use Viber to engage in two-way conversations with them. Subsequently, this has led to complaint levels falling by 80% as customers enjoyed more personalized experiences and faster resolutions to issues.

    • Upselling services – Viber Business Messages are proving to be beneficial for bottom lines too. For instance, NLB Banka AD Podgorica serves Southeast Europe and turned to Viber to push out promotional campaigns (this is because Viber allows direct marketing messaging unlike its rival WhatsApp Business). This saw NLB’s sales of select products increase by up to 15%, and a 30% conversion rate for an ‘arrange a meeting’ offer.


    1. Sports

    What underpins any successful sports club is its fans: that ‘tribe’ of allegiance-sharing devotees who are 100% committed to their team.

    In the COVID-19 era, tournaments are currently being held without spectators; meaning clubs must also find new ways to fire up fans’ passions for their favourite teams while social distancing policies remain in place.

    From offering exclusive game images and player interviews through to managing subscriptions and promoting ticket offers, forward-thinking sports clubs are leveraging popular messaging platforms with often game-changing results:

    • Customer Service & Engagement – Acting as information hubs, chat apps offer fans a more convenient, faster way to access key club services. Think membership applications, season tickets, game results with both WhatsApp Business and Viber Business Messages able to deliver a diverse range of information as well as manage exchanges frictionlessly.
    • Marketing & Sales – The adoption of messaging applications by sports clubs has seen one-way marketing messaging being shown the red card too, replaced with more personalized, targeted ‘conversations’ that increase conversion rates and shorten sales cycles. WhatsApp click-to-chat buttons deployed in Facebook and Instagram ads that, when clicked on, allow fans to start chatting with a live agent or virtual assistant right away are the latest trend in this space.
    • Pushing brand messaging further – To help spread branding beyond fanbases, clubs are offering digital sticker setsfor use in messaging platform conversations. For instance, FC Barcelona gifted fans an exclusive downloadable club sticker pack via Viber Business Messages.

    Source: Viber Case Study with FC Barcelona

    1. Telco

    Constant customer churn is the bane of telcos with some now turning to ‘proactive customer conversations’ to address the notoriously challenging issue.

    Ask any telco about the thorny issue of customer retention, and they’ll likely roll their eyes while pointing to a stat that packs a serious punch: 77% of consumers retract their loyalty more quickly than they did three years ago, according to Accenture.

    Here’s how telcos can navigate through the retention landscape successfully:

    • Personalisation – Identifying high churn risk customers and their individual needs should be at the top of telco’s priorities. Knowing how different customers will respond to varying levels of retention is the key to telco brands being more proactive or reactive when they engage with their customers. Customers will be more open to revealing their needs and feedback on WhatsApp because of its familiarity.
    • Timeliness – Studies show that conventional loyalty programs designed to bring back old customers are no longer effective. With WhatsApp Business, it’s simple to monitor and report customer conversation for risk analysis.
    • Seamless customer experience – Telcos can make their customer’s journey effortless by interacting with them on their preferred channel. Over 2 billion people use WhatsApp daily, so it has become one of the preferred customer communications channels.

    The key to a successful digital clienteling rollout

    Such powerful functionality can only be delivered by seamlessly integrating the messaging platform with existing commerce systems and data sources. This technical challenge can understandably pose some questions about how quickly the rollout can happen.

    The answer? The technology exists: easy-to-integrate APIs that bring popular messaging channels into a single access point. Brands are integrating such APIs with their existing clienteling systems or use no-code/low-code options that can be deployed out-of-the-box.


    Jean Shin is Directo,r Strategy and Content, tyntec

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