From diapers to e-bikes, how WhatsApp’s Catalog is helping small businesses engage customers

Written by Shruti Dhapola
| New Delhi |

Published: March 19, 2020 10:19:42 am

WhatsApp’s Catalog is helping small businesses engage customers 

What could a saree seller, a diaper company and an electric bike maker have in common? Well, they all use WhatsApp to reach out to customers in India, the largest user base of the encrypted chat platform.

With over 400 million users in the country, WhatsApp has been a convenient way for businesses large and small to reach out to customers. And this is why even a flower-seller in rural India has been touting the ‘contact us on WhatsApp’ number on hoardings, much before the official WhatsApp Business app launched back in 2018.

The messaging platform claims over a million entrepreneurs and small businesses across India are using the WhatsApp Business app to connect with customers. For those companies opting to go for this product, new features are making business easier. The new Catalog feature, for instance, helps showcase products to consumers in a single file complete with pictures, links, and other details such as price, description, etc.

Amrit Pal, WhatsApp’s product manager, explains that with catalogs, small businesses can create a free mobile storefront to showcase their goods or services. “Customers can easily browse and discover things they like. And now, businesses no longer need to send photos or divert them to a website.” Launched last November, is for most companies better than having a buggy website.

Catalog adds to the personal touch of WhatsApp

“On WhatsApp it becomes a very personal conversation as it opens up a dialogue. We can send customers videos, but now we have the catalog option, which can guide the customer in the decision,” says Rushad Rupawala of LightSpeed Mobility which sells electric bikes all over the country. Rupawala was engaging with customers using WhatsApp even before the business app was launched, attributing half his sales to the app now.

Sareevenue--Catalog Sareevenue, a family business started in the 1970s, too has been relying on WhatsApp since 2014.

The customer sees all the options in one go with Catalog, Rupawala says, rather than the WhatsApp Business account constantly pinging them with details about each product. For the business, it helps provide more information about the product, he reasons. “The Catalog has an action button too along with 10 pictures,” he explains about how it is better than sending five messages for just one product. “And it makes this process less cumbersome.”

Sareevenue, a family business started in the 1970s, too has been relying on WhatsApp since 2014. Owner Amir Ansari now sees around 40 per cent of their orders being served via WhatsApp Business app with the majority of customers coming from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Maharashtra.

The saree manufacturer looks at the new Catalog feature as a small digital market. “We were the early access users of the feature. This actually solves a problem for many of our customers who were unable to access the website and hence unable to order. With catalog they can now easily access our collections and place the order,” says Ansari. He hopes payments eventually come to WhatsApp as well, “so that customers do not have to move to a third-party app at the time of payment”.

More conversions, engagement

Since the Catalog images are on the WhatsApp server, Ansari says, it ensures quick access without taking up the customer’s storage. The customer can access the catalog 24/7, and this makes it simpler for a business like his as potential customers want to constantly browse the pictures before making their final pick.

For Pallavi Utagi, the founder of SuperBottoms, which sells long-lasting cloth-based diapers for babies, WhatsApp has proved to be a virtual office. “Our WhatsApp helpline is updated with the Catalog and we have a team of 70 mom ambassadors who use the catalog feature with our customers,” she says, again underlining how it is better than a website for her four-year-old business. It also helps that her team has so many mothers who prefer to guide potential customers from home.

catalog For Pallavi Utagi, the founder of SuperBottoms, which sells long-lasting cloth-based diapers for babies, WhatsApp has proved to be a virtual office.

Since the mothers on the other side too have very little time, speed is of essence. “We see a difference in terms of engagement as mothers are very busy. If the internet is slow, they would lose interest,” says Ustagi who gets around 500 daily queries on their two dedicated WhatsApp numbers.

Even after sales are on WhatsApp

For Lightspeed Mobility, WhatsApp Business has made it easier to scale business interactions — they now have 25,000 people enquiring about the business compared to 3,000 before. The company even has a dedicated sales executive for WhatsApp as well and claim 250 daily conversations. “We can classify enquiries on WhatsApp based on regions and it makes it easier to manage them as well. This also means we can classify what information to send to which customer, and if possible, we can send the customer to a local dealer if that option is available,” Rupawala adds.

Rupawala says his aftersales conversations too have moved to WhatsApp, with some engineers even doing video calls. In his view, the advantage is that WhatsApp is a more personal way of communicating. “Email is too formal. There are no layers to communication on WhatsApp. If you call, then they will make you wait and go over instructions. Here you are getting direct access to the engineer on WhatsApp,” he adds.

LightSpeed--Catalog For Lightspeed Mobility, WhatsApp Business has made it easier to scale business interactions.

Sareevenue and SuperBottoms too benefit from this direct access to customers post-sales. “On the website, the customers can’t always get in touch with us immediately. There’s no quick reply option. On WhatsApp we can easily solve their queries. It helps in convincing more customers,” Ansari explains.

For Superbottoms, after-sales are crucial given that their product is new and customers have a lot of questions. The solution: WhatsApp video demos. “We do 8-10 videos every day, where we show how to put the diaper on the baby. We try to help the parents via the call. That’s where WhatsApp is very handy,” Utagi notes. In fact, the customer care team has mothers who are themselves using the products. “We fix a call timing with the customer, and show them how to use the product correctly, over WhatsApp.”

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