Business Strategy

Targeting The Messenger: What Say, WhatsApp?

Targeting The Messenger: What Say, WhatsApp?

Marketing today has evolved from the simple buzz-creating phenomenon it was in the last century. A plethora of ideas and innovations have exploded onto various media channels. Owing to the modern marketer, market wars today are won and lost even before the product hits the market in most cases. Marketing now is held directly accountable for the success or failure of any endeavor. Given the digital boom, digital marketing is a red hot arena for the big and the small players alike. However considering the fact that it is a cost center, it becomes essential that any marketing strategy should be made as effective and as efficient as possible.

Forming a quantitative relationship may be easy, but how to optimize it? How to maximize the results keeping the marketing expenditure at a feasible level? Many metrics like traffic generation, cost per click, cost per lead and click through rate have been developed, but the success of digital marketing can be said to be lukewarm, in most cases. So what’s next?

It is clear that marketing needs to be as direct as possible and personalized to succeed in the cutthroat competitive environment today. But at the same time you cannot go personalizing your efforts for the entire digital population. Yes you need to be direct. But you also need to be well directed. With the growth of the smartphone user base, it is evident that the mobile route is perhaps the most obvious field of play for the modern marketer that satisfies these constraints.

Look at the mobile today. What is it most used for by a millennial? Obviously, chatting. Over the last few years the use of messengers has grown almost exponentially. And what’s better is the fact that these messengers are mostly tied to the current mobile numbers of their users. An impeccably well directed pathway to a potential customer hence appears. How to exploit it in the best possible way? That is a multi-million dollar question, maybe billion, given the crazy amount of money being pumped into businesses today.

In this issue we will discuss about WhatsApp marketing, an upcoming domain feeding on the almost ubiquitous popularity of WhatsApp in the messaging world. It officially has more than 1 billion active users globally. Let us see what all can WhatsApp offer to the modern marketer in general and the overall business on the whole.

Content Marketing

Content has always been the king, and always will be, provided it reaches the right audience. Form WhatsApp groups of your leads/clients/customers and feed them with relevant and high quality content. This can be done on regional basis, ensuring a more personal touch.  More importantly it will engage them, creating a highly desirable top of the mind brand recall.


  1. Location based groups, allowing for mass customization
  2. An easy measure of customer interest and potential: Uninterested ones will leave, interested ones will stay, maybe even respond
  3. This measure will allow the marketing team to decide which lead/prospect is to be handled in what manner, hence allowing for a well directed targeting strategy
  4. Engagement through content upgrades will become more effective with images, videos and documents
  5. The by product will be a well organised database of users, which can be put to use by various analytics processes for greater profitability


A lot of back end work goes into database processing, including a new workforce division catering to WhatsApp marketing, as messengers have made people used to instant responses from the communicating entity.


BBC took to WhatsApp in Europe to spread Ebola awareness (left) and Viber in Nepal (right), note how they used regional languages to garner appeal.

Promotional Campaigns

Most promotions fail because they don’t fall upon the right eyes and ears. With targeted broadcasting this problem can be easily solved. We all have heard about how a product-market fit must exist for a product to succeed in a market. Similarly for a promotional campaign, a message-market fit is essential to get maximum return from your marketing investment.


Britain’s Vogue Fashion fed latest fashion trends to its WhatsApp subscribers.

All you need to do is create an official WhatsApp account and push your promotions and messages to subscribers. Yes. It can be made simple as that.


One arena in which WhatsApp can seriously disrupt the way business is done globally is the operations part. This area in itself opens up a plethora of opportunities for WhatsApp to expand into. It can be utilized effectively as a platform for providing services like

  • Messenger Marketing
  • Messenger Payment
  • Messenger Purchase
  • Money Transfer
  • Customer Relations and many more.

For instance, take a look at the messenger ecosystem in China. A large number of online internet activities like purchases, payments and money transfer, booking services, basically e-commerce activities, have been integrated to offer an online platform, within the messenger itself.

WeChat has even come up with “Enterprise WeChat”, a revolutionary idea for work purposes and business communication.

In India, it is now that businesses have started acknowledging the role of communication while doing business online.  Flipkart Ping, Quickr, OLX etc are all examples of the aforementioned model, trying to encapsulate both a messenger and their actual service in a single platform.

What’s in it for the brands?

Marketing using Instant Messengers (IMs) like WhatsApp allows brands to create a scalable and adaptable strategy for engaging customers. Broadcasts can be done regularly, but if any customer has any particular grievance or query, a one on one interaction can be easily done. It will allow customers to interact freely with brands, increasing brand awareness.  With content sharing, word of mouth and viral content, WhatsApp can prove to be heaven for the modern marketer.

Secondly, WhatsApp offers a cheap, actually free of cost, route to achieving higher content visibility and engagement. Messages have a 70% chance of being seen by users, a significant improvement upon the current digital click through rates, a Digital Defynd study reveals.


However, to achieve all that we have discussed, a manual work force has to be set up. Bots can’t be left to do all the monitoring and chatting. Even in analytics, to gauge the performance, WhatsApp doesn’t offer any in built support. True, the process is complicated and long, but have a look at the final metrics you get. An exact number, be it subscribers, un-subscribers, number of interactions, people who read, responded and so on, that too on a scale best suited to your communication. It is totally worth it.

This brings us to our next point. Should WhatsApp come out with something specific to service these needs of the new-age marketers? Let’s see.

What’s in it for WhatsApp?

Well take a look at Tencent Holdings in China. It is almost a monopoly when it comes to offering communication services. WhatsApp is already a global giant. And sooner or later something is going to give. So, with a first mover advantage, WhatsApp (read Facebook) needs to seize the opportunity while it still exists.

With their WhatsApp Web feature, WhatsApp has already integrated the QR code mechanism onto its platform. This can prove to be handy in what we are trying to achieve. Remember when Walmart came up with bar-codes and revolutionized retail? Yes, the impact just might be that big.

Apprehensions may come up. All users will definitely not respond positively to it. Some would like it simple and personal, as it is today. What Facebook could do is offer another platform like WhatsApp, perhaps another version of it, customized for business/commercial purposes, with an option of integrating the simple messenger version of WhatsApp on this new platform as per the choice of the user.  Once people start appreciating the process, the right buzz will be automatically generated. Facebook already have sufficient technology base to offer targeted advertisements for users, and it will come in handy if they work upon this idea.

Some entities have already experimented with WhatsApp based marketing. Publishers including Huffington Post, The Mirror and Guardian have tried their hands at it, with a mixed bag of results. BBC’s WhatsApp initiative was a satisfactory one. Absolut Vodka also took to WhatsApp for the “Absolute Unique Access” campaign of theirs, and it was success. Not only WhatsApp, Maybelline from L’Oreal launched flash sales in Thailand, tying up with the Japanese messenger Line. These were small scale campaigns that demonstrated encouraging results.


Publishers broadcasting feeds on their Line channels in UK

Imagine the potential of a billion-strong market on a single platform. It definitely seems like a win-win situation for both WhatsApp and the marketer. What say, WhatsApp?

Image Source: All images courtesy Google Images



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Business Strategy

I am currently pursuing my MBA from IIFT to equip myself with the knowledge and understanding of business management which I believe is the career path forward for me.

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