Social commerce has been rapidly gaining traction over the past year. According to "The rise of social commerce in Southeast Asia" report by M&C Saatchi Performance, the SEA region saw a 102% increase in orders and 91% increase in GMV for social commerce. The rising adoption of social media in SEA, demand for one-stop shopping platforms that enable communication with sellers were cited as the drivers behind the growth of social commerce in the region.
Among the numerous social media apps, WhatsApp has begun to emerge and make its mark in the social commerce space. Earlier last month, Dior Beauty launched an industry-first WhatsApp campaign with brand ambassador Jisoo, a member of K-pop girl group BLACKPINK, to promote its new Dior Addict shine lipstick. The WhatsApp campaign offered its 9.6 million Instagram followers access to four days of exclusive content and conversations with Jisoo.
Consumers were invited to be part of the experience via Dior Beauty's Instagram Story, where Jisoo had offered followers the chance to join her "exclusive WhatsApp group". From there, Dior took consumers to a dedicated landing page where they could sign up to engage with Jisoo's chatbot over WhatsApp ahead of the lipstick launch. Members could also choose the type of content they wanted to receive, from themed videos to exclusive behind the scenes footage of Jisoo’s life as a Dior ambassador. The campaign was managed through Infobip’s WhatsApp Business solution, enabling Dior to build a series of automated conversations and journeys as Jisoo with the help of chatbots. This was the first time the luxury brand chose WhatsApp for its marketing campaign.
WhatsApp has now clearly gone beyond messaging to include shopping, Facebook hosting services, and business sales. Shops on WhatsApp, for example, is a tool that allows business owners to create customised shopping experiences for their businesses. Recently, it announced Communities to bring together separate groups under one umbrella. Some of the features include emoji reactions, supporting files up to 2GB, one-tap voice calling for up to 32 people, and announcement messages by admins. WhatsApp was also ranked first for most used social media apps in Singapore (93%), Malaysia (98%), and Indonesia (98%), according to M&C Saatchi Performance's report.
Alva Chew, founder of ecommerce and SEO consultancy Stridec, agreed with the stats, adding that WhatsApp's audience reachability makes it a formidable platform to build social commerce interaction on, despite the lack of ability to process transactions within the app. However, WhatsApp is likely to eventually embed these features on its app, hence building up the connection base now would be a strategically beneficial move for most brands, Chew told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE .
WhatsApp is also a channel for brands to get more intimate with new and existing customers by curating a more personalised communication experience, with customised recommendations and offers through scenario planning and chatbot automation. According to Chew, this also helps brands uncover insights into the customer journey that broad stroke marketing approaches might not be able to. However, despite planning out various scenarios and working out the corresponding responses to create more "natural" interactions, there will always be unexpected situations that require human intervention, Chew said. He added, "It is important to have the customer service team trained properly to step in and provide a human interaction experience when called for, so as not to leave the customers hanging when the programmed responses could not conclude the interactions."
However, creating a campaign on the platform shouldn't just be seen as a silo. Zarnaz Arlia, chief marketing officer, Emplifi noted that brands have to consider how WhatsApp will fit into their overall marketing strategy, instead doing it half-heartedly simply because the platform can offer one-to-one engagement and personalisation with customers in real-time. "You need resources and investment put into WhatsApp so that it adds value and credibility, rather than taking away from the brand," Arlia said.
"Don’t sound like a robot that doesn’t answer the questions asked; connect with your customer and meet their needs," she added. To that end, brands should look at their metrics and data to see how WhatsApp can help elevate their CX.
Despite being part of the Meta family, WhatsApp for business is sometimes overlooked when in should in fact be included in brands' omnichannel mix.
Arlia explained, "WhatsApp brings further accessibility and convenience for consumers who want to engage, but are on the go and don’t have time to wait around and those who are less present on social media networks." She cited how, for instance, a consumer who is looking to buy a fridge but has some questions that will help their decision making can chat with the brand directly on WhatsApp, as opposed to searching online or heading in-store. The consumer may also be able to look at other similar products, depending on the level of marketing investment the brand has in WhatsApp. Post purchase, the consumer can still reach out to the brand via WhatsApp for any feedback or queries.
"While WhatsApp may not close out the transaction it does drive consumers down the sales funnel and facilitates post-purchase care...At the end of the day, people all have their personal preferences when it comes to communications tools, and adding WhatsApp to your business strategy increases the touchpoints available in reaching and retaining your customer," Arlia said.
Influencer marketing in social commerce
Influencer marketing does play a critical role in social commerce, however brands do not need to emulate Dior Beauty in bringing in big names for their campaigns, Arlia and Chew said.
Chew added that WhatsApp campaigns can potentially be just as successful by tapping onto micro and nano influencers, coupled with precise messaging and audience targeting.
Meanwhile, Arlia said that - as with marketing using WhatsApp - it is a matter of whether these influencers tie in the brands. " A high-profile influencer that is disingenuous won’t do much for your brand," she added. Additionally, consumers can easily discern whether the influencer is genuine about the brands and products they are endorsing, hence brands should know their audience, and provide a level of customer service and care through authentic and empathetic communication.
Commenting on Dior Beauty's venture into WhatsApp marketing, Arlia said: "It’s interesting Dior has chosen WhatsApp as their communication tool, likely having done their research on consumers in the consideration stage and with goals to drive conversions. Similarly, you always have to be a step ahead of your competitors, and for the luxury fashion brand, it provides personalisation and is another way to grow and engage their following."
(Photo courtesy: ShutterStock )
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