The WhatsApp ticking time bomb that Businesses shouldn’t ignore

April 22, 2020

A new revolution in communications

Communications in the past 5 years have been revolutionised by WhatsApp. Keeping in touch with friends and family is now a doddle since the mass adoption of WhatsApp – in fact, when was the last time you wanted to message someone who wasn’t on WhatsApp?! Most will agree, it is no longer a fad for the younger generation, but an essential tool for all age groups.

First to the true “mobile messaging” market-space in 2009 were WhatsApp. Sure, others existed such as Skype, which whilst great for voice & video, messaging was a throw in feature on the side. Plus, Skype was foremost a PC application and was slow to gain adoption on mobile devices. WhatsApp was to free messaging that Skype was to free calling.

It wasn’t long until WhatsApp overtook SMS as the defacto method to send messages from mobile devices, with users able to send media rich content without fear of sky-high charges from their network provider. High on the features that users loved were groups and the fact that no username/passwords were needed – the service was uniquely tied to their mobile number.

For these reasons, WhatsApp is now the market leading messaging platform in over 100 countries. The only markets where they are not leaders are the US and China, these served by Facebook Messenger & WeChat respectively.

Mixing business with pleasure

For all the reasons above, WhatsApp’s use has very much blurred in with work communication. It is commonplace for workers within organisations to have work chat groups, which means, much to the IT Managers frustrations, communication is bypassing business platforms such as MS Teams, Slack, & Email.

Worse still, are the conversations going on with customers & suppliers’ over staff’s personal WhatsApp account.

So, what’s the problem you ask?

A small item called monetisation! Call us cynical, but about the same time as WhatsApp revealed their “WhatsApp API” to the world, some changes began to appear, one of which was some changes to their terms. You know, the bit you scroll through, never read, and accept without fail?

WhatsApp are launching their platform to businesses.

To save you hours of your life, I’ll point you to the section that we think is important:

“In addition, beginning on December 7, 2019, WhatsApp will take legal action against those […] that violate our Terms of Service, such as […] non-personal use, even if that determination is based on information solely available to us off our platform."

Non-personal use. That doesn’t mean spin up WhatsApp on your business mobile phone and all will be forgiven. It means use of the Personal WhatsApp application for work related chat.

Of course, there is also one minor (joke!) matter called GDPR. Personal accounts are a GDPR issue to your business. Why? Well, firstly, WhatsApp is granted full access to your contacts, which means if your member of staff decides to say, sign up to Houseparty (but your customer didn’t), then you are giving access to a 3rd party to the contacts on that phone, which your customer hasn’t given you permission to do so. You also don’t have access to that phone (or account) to delete any PII (personal identifiable informaiton), let alone have access to work related conversations that have occurred.

But monetisation aside, WhatsApp also want to ensure that WhatsApp doesn’t turn into another email spam-fest. Protecting users inboxes from spam messaging is incredibly high in their list of priorities, which is why their business policies is going to be very important for organisations to adhere to.

“Sorry” isn’t good enough

When we speak to organisations about the use of WhatsApp in their business, and explain the above, the reply typically falls into one of these categories.

  1. “Oh cr&p”
  2. “We don’t use WhatsApp in our business” (but then when they speak to their team, find out that they use it for client or supplier communication all the time)
  3. “We tell our staff not to use WhatsApp” (but then when they speak to their team, find out that they still use it for client or supplier communication all the time, despite the company rule)
  4. “Why would I want to use WhatsApp?” to be fair, I don’t often get this reply!

The end result is that companies large and small, far and wide (we have plenty of examples to prove this!) are still placing a vast number of consumer interactions over personal WhatsApp accounts – knowingly, or unknowingly.

What are your options?

Asking users to use private “business” chat apps won’t work. Instructing a staff member to tell their customer to use Slack to message them might work for 3.2% of the population, but the answer isn’t to fight WhatsApp, its to understand how to leverage it – keeping customers, IT managers, sales directors/managers, compliance officers & business owners happy.

You have two options:

  • WAB (WhatsApp Business), which has been out now for some time, FREE for iOS & Android users.
  • WhatsApp API.

Whilst WAB is free, it is really only viable for a single user business – typically the business owner. If you have more than 3 people handling customer enquiries, or handling sales, then WAB will not work for you. It lacks three key ingredients – collaboration, integration & automation. So, I just simply buy WhatsApp API? No, not quite.

WhatsApp have around 45 global business partners, who will provide you access to the WhatsApp API.

Unless you have a team of software developers to hand, and a strong understanding of the WhatsApp API documentation & business policies, then I’m afraid you might struggle to sort out your WhatsApp problem. That is where companies like Stitch can help. We supply a range of messaging solutions powered by the WhatsApp API. You can’t ignore the WhatsApp problem forever. WhatsApp API is here, and we provide solutions of all types to help B2C’s and B2B’s enjoy GDPR compliant customer journeys in WhatsApp.

For anyone wanting to read further, I would suggest this is a good starting point:

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