WhatsApp-powered personalized shopping is on the rise with several retailers already leveraging its huge potential for enhanced customer experiences. This drive has been triggered primarily by mobile-first shoppers — think Generation Z and millennials—who are falling out of love with traditional touch points such as websites and email. Instead, they are demanding a more personalized service delivered to their smartphones via messaging.
Millennials want to communicate via direct messaging
This demand shouldn't come as a surprise really—after all, 98% of Gen Z own a smartphone with 57% using messaging apps like WhatsApp at least half the time they are using their phones. Critically, over 60% of millennials state they now want to communicate with brands via direct messaging. And savvy retailers are already leveraging such 'conversational commerce' to deepen customer relationships and compete with businesses that are still wedded to traditional CX channels.
Using WhatsApp Business to personalize customer journeys
From fashion e-commerce and cosmetics retail through to sourcing everyday household items, customers can now request information and order goods using messaging platforms. These personalized buying journeys are powered by chatbots for simple requests or human agents acting as 'personal shoppers' for a more bespoke service.
It's an approach that's already proving successful for companies such as Yoox Net-A-Porter, which embraced messaging after discovering mobile customers placed twice the number of orders compared to desktop users, and made purchases worth twice the value.
Why web stores are being replaced by WhatsApp
Some retailers are shunning traditional channels altogether, instead relying exclusively on WhatsApp to drive marketing and sales. For instance, fashion brand Threads uses only social media and messaging services to sell high end items from brands such as Dior, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton.
Using Instagram to promote its latest offerings, Threads invites prospects to swipe up and begin messaging via WhatsApp or Snapchat with one of its 50 personal shoppers who then guides potential customers through the purchasing process. This approach has been successful enough for Threads to commit to increasing its pool of personal shoppers by 75% each year.
“I don't think we've sent out a [promotional] email in like, six or seven years," company founder Sophie Hill told Business of Fashion. “It hasn't been necessary because we have ongoing, constant connections with our customers. All the money we aren't spending on a website we are using to build a highly-skilled tech team that also act as personal shoppers."
While these may sound like services aimed solely at the affluent shopper, mainstream retailers are also embracing personalized shopping. For instance, cosmetics giant Avon has created its 'e-interactive brochure', which it aims to roll out to all of its six million reps, allowing them to create and send personalized shopping carts to customers who have opted in via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
How to use WhatsApp Business and improve personalized customer experiences
While the topline benefits are clear, how does the messaging process actually work in practice? Let's take a look.
User Scenario — quick query (chatbot)
The customer wants a skin care product, a retailer can use a WhatsApp-based chatbot to offer recommendations instantly (as well as take orders and process payments if required):
Customer: J – looking for something to take my skin care routine to the next level... any recommendations?
Retailer: I recommend this nourishing facial oil:
Retailer: Supernal – Cosmetic Glow Oil ($108.00). Expected to arrive by: 7/10/19
Retailer: Is this what you're looking for? Reply “Yes" to confirm.
User Scenario — guidance (human agent)
For more detailed requests, a human agent can be deployed—in this case, an in-house stylist:
Customer: Hey, am heading off on my vacation. Want to rock a total new beach look. I'm talking hat, bikini, sandals – the whole shebang. What you got?
Stylist: Hi! I have all your measurements from last month's order so will get back to you asap with a gallery of some awesome recommendations!
Stylist: Hey, you want some beach skin and haircare products too? We can offer some great discounts.
User Scenario — guidance (human agent)
For more detailed requests, a human agent can be deployed—in this case, an in-house stylist at Tailorman, a tyntec client:
Customer: Hi, am heading to a business awards ceremony and need a formal suit to pick up my gong!
Tailorman: Congratulations on your win! We have a wide range of formal suits that would be ideal. Do you have your measurements to hand?
Tailorman: Okay, let me send across a gallery of recommendations and we can go through them to decide on the best outfit for your big night!
How to optimize WhatsApp Business shopping personalization experience
Before an enterprise deploys WhatsApp for personalized shopping, there are three key issues to consider:
1. Chatbot vs. human agent
While reputable WhatsApp Business providers can integrate an enterprise's existing chatbot solution into the platform, bots should not be used “to manage conversations… but to support [them]", explains MatchesFashion.com's Nicolas Pickaerts to Vogue Business. Striking a suitable balance between chatbots and human agents is key here — as well as suitable levels of investment.
2. Trigger (un)happy
Remember that any consumer conversation must be triggered by the opted-in customer in the first instance. Never send unsolicited marketing missives — doing so risks the company being banned from the service. Once the customer has contacted the company via WhatsApp, the retailer is then in a position to recommend, sell, cross/upsell, and soft market their products or services — but avoid spammy behavior as this alienates customers and again risks a ban.
3. Deploy all channels
Leverage the Click-to-Chat functionality in Facebook ads to drive personalized marketing. This integration allows customers to click on an embedded button and launch a WhatsApp session with a human agent or chatbot instantly. Read more about this functionality here.