As the past couple of years witnessed a drop in data costs, WhatsApp has successfully replaced the traditional offline messaging service as the primary mode of text communication in India. Leveraging this fact, this messaging platform launched WhatsApp Business – the pilot for a dedicated mobile app exclusively for businesses – in early September 2017.
Since its launch, popular brands in India such as BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip have been using this Facebook-owned WhatsApp business strategy to connect with their target audience. Though there are many apps that cater to business users, a messaging platform like WhatsApp provides a wider scope for a larger number of businesses, be it the local grocery store, professional services, medical institutions and even the government.
- FREE OF COST
You read right! WhatsApp Business lets you list your business and contact your customers at absolutely no cost. With a popular messaging app enabling business owners to send service messages for free, this could mean a gradual decrease for the conventional, but costly SMS facility. This WhatsApp business plan also counters the need for SMEs to create a mobile presence by designing smartphone apps, a distinct advantage for young enterprises from a cost and complexity perspective.
- DESCRIPTIVE BUSINESS PROFILES
If you own a small business without a website, WhatsApp Business allows you to describe your business in detail, and you can fill in addresses, contact numbers, social media links, etc. that lets your clients know more about the nature of your operations. The app takes verification seriously; a green tick appears against the name of your business when WhatsApp Business has corroborated the details you had provided.
- MULTIPLE MESSAGING OPTIONS
This unique feature of customized reply settings on WhatsApp Business ensures that you are customer-ready at all times. The ‘Quick reply’ option lets you set up standard responses to frequently asked questions. To all new leads who get in touch with you, the ‘Greeting message’ can introduce your business and what makes you different. You can also frame a custom ‘Away message’ for communications during off hours or when the small business owners are busy.
- BUSINESS ANALYTICS
More communication also means more data, which can be leveraged to understand your customers better. WhatsApp Business offers messaging statistics, a feature that provides metrics on the number of messages that were sent, delivered and read. Using this information, you can analyze the frequency of response from your leads or customers, modify the content of quick replies and experiment on the strategy of communicating with them.
- WHATSAPP WEB SERVICES
WhatsApp Business supports its projection via WhatsApp Web, which lets you manage the service through your computer without the mobile app. It provides additional efficiency when interacting with clients and partners, and leaves automation possibilities open as the system grows.
Setting up WhatsApp Business
WhatsApp Business in India is present only on the Play Store; so you will need an Android smartphone to use the app. As every WhatsApp account can be linked to unique mobile numbers, you register on this WhatsApp for business by using your official business number or your office landline.
Keep these ready before you set up the WhatsApp Business app, the steps for which are given below:
1. Backup your chat data to cloud storage if you already have a number which is primarily used for business with WhatsApp. Click on Chats>>Chat Backup>>Backup to upload to the cloud.
2. Download the app from the Google Play Store, install it and then launch it by tapping on the new WhatsApp Business icon.
3. Enter your business phone number that will be used to communicate to your customers, and verify it using the SMS (for mobile phones) or ‘call me’ option (for landlines).
4. Restore the previous chat related to the number once verification is complete (from Step 1).
5. Fill the name of your business and from the chat section, tap on the menu button and head to Settings>> Business settings>> Profile. Here, you can fill in all the details that you want to share with your customers.
What’s in it for small businesses?
WhatsApp Business is extended only to small businesses, an exclusivity that budding entrepreneurs can use to their advantage. The WhatsApp for business marketing aims at streamlining and extending the reach of small businesses without making hefty investments in website development, mobile app creation, customer support, and more.
Moreover, it helps notch up the idea of personalized marketing, as you can use the app to share images of products and promotions periodically to your loyal band of customers. The WhatsApp Business app also offers credibility to small businesses – a green tick against the name of your enterprise verifies the genuineness of your services and operations, an aspect that will help a majority of SMEs to reach out to a wider audience.
There are nearly 230 million WhatsApp users in India, and the fact that everyone knows how to use this WhatsApp for business use eliminates the time required to learn the nuances of a mobile application for businesses. Thus, WhatsApp Business is a ground-breaking solution to the communication and marketing needs of small businesses. We expect the introduction of WhatsApp Payments to act as a catalyst for this business with WhatsApp option to implement artificial intelligence, data analytics and voice recognition technology to optimize it into a powerful sales and marketing channel for small businesses.
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An increasing number of businesses in India, even the smaller ones, are beginning to accept payments for their products and services via credit cards. The acceptance of credit card payments is not only convenient but also a boon for these units, as the same can be used to get short-term funding or advances from funding agencies. A merchant cash advance, as the name suggests, is a cash advance to merchants against their future credit card payment receivables.
Merchant cash advance is a relatively new form of funding in India for small businesses that need fast access to cash and have an established credit card transaction history. Widely used in the US and Canada for several years now, this type of lending is a convenient and easy method of raising funds. It’s not really a loan, rather an advance payment against the future income of a business. Merchant cash advance loans are an ideal solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs who lack adequate organized funding and often resort to borrowing from friends, family or unorganized lenders. They are emerging as an optimum solution for meeting the funding requirements of businesses with a regular income received via credit cards.
SMEs and Funding Options
A majority of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) today operate with cash cycles of 60 days or more, but options for getting working capital finance are severely limited. Although the SME segment plays a key role in India’s economic growth, these enterprises suffer on account of inadequate funding options and thus resort to high interest loans from the informal segment.
Recent years have, however, witnessed the development of innovative products by non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and micro lenders to fill the funding gap in the SME segment. Merchant cash advance is one such product that aims to help small businesses garner the necessary working capital by way of advances against the future income of a business.
Merchant Cash Advance: A Simple and Convenient Product
A merchant cash capital provider would give you a lump-sum amount, which is paid off automatically when they take a percentage of your daily credit card receipts. Since the repayment is linked to credit card receipts, this funding option is suitable for businesses that have a significant portion of their income via the credit card receipts. These include restaurant owners, online shopping sites, merchants and service providers.
The rate at which repayments are made or the retrieval rate can vary from 5% to 20% of the credit card receipts of a business. This retrieval rate is decided on the basis of the amount of advance, the quantum of sales via credit cards and the repayment period. Another important feature of this type of funding is that repayment begins immediately after the receipt of the funds with the total duration of the advance ranging between 180 and 360 days.
The amount of advance that a small business can get is determined by its average credit card sales. A merchant advance provider generally reviews your income inflow over the past six months to determine the advance amount that you can get. The funds provider generally ties up with the credit card payment processors with a predetermined percentage of the merchant’s credit card sales being transferred to the lender directly. The time taken to repay this advance is dependent on the percentage of credit card sales being given to the finance provider. The higher the percentage, the shorter is the time it would take to repay the advance.
Why Opt for a Merchant Cash Advance?
There are several reasons that make a merchant cash advance a preferred funding option for small businesses with high credit card transactions. These include:
1. Easy to Apply: It is very easy to apply for a merchant cash advance. All you need to do is to fill an online application form and upload the required supporting documents like your tax returns, bank account statements and credit card processing statements.
2. Quick Processing: Fund providers like Capital Float that rely heavily on cutting-edge technology take a decision within a few hours and deliver the funds within a few days. This is highly beneficial for businesses that require quick cash to cover unexpected business expenses.
3. Perfect Credit Score Not the Criteria: A merchant cash advance is sanctioned solely on the basis of the credit card receipts of a business and their consistency, without assigning too much importance paid to the credit score of an individual or business.
4. Unsecured Loans: A merchant cash advance is an unsecured loan that can be obtained without mortgaging any asset. No collateral is required and the focus is the future income.
5. Flexible Repayment: Since the repayment amount is a specific percentage of your credit card sales during a month, you are not overburdened or under pressure to pay more even during a lean period for your business or when your business is going through a rough patch and the sales are not up to the mark.
6. High Limits: Advance fund providers generally offer a higher borrowing limit than banks since they take their decisions on the basis of your future income.
7. No Impact on Credit Report: Since merchant cash capital is actually a sales transaction, it does not get reflected in the credit record of the business or the business owner.
A word of caution before you decide to take a merchant cash advance for funding your working capital needs. The cost of this type of funding may be higher than the loans taken from banks because the repayment is dependent on the factor rate of your advance. This factor rate is multiplied by the amount of advance to derive the total amount to be repaid. You can reap the benefits of merchant cash advance loans to fund your working capital needs by negotiating a lower holdback percentage. Although this will increase the repayment duration, it will help you minimize the cost.
Oct 24, 2018
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Oct 24, 2018
The world is not what it used to be since the Coronavirus outbreak. The virus has distorted the daily lives of millions of people across the globe. Social distancing, travel restrictions, work from home – are becoming the new normal. To gain customers’ trust, companies should understand the buyers and their requirements in this unprecedented environment.
Why is maintaining customer relations essential?
Good customer relationships can help a company to grow. As with personal relationships, creating and nurturing customer relationships is essential as well. When organizations develop strong customer relationships, it can lead to loyal customers, positive word of mouth, and higher sales.
What are the customers expecting from you?
For your company’s long-term well-being, you should put the needs of your customers first. Customers will always prioritize their safety and that of their families. They expect businesses to understand their shopping style, keep essentials well-stocked, be treated as a valued customer, and get benefits even in these hard times.
How to maintain customer relations in the pandemic?
- Maintain hygiene: The safety of the customers should be the priority of any business concern. Therefore, businesses should keep their stores thoroughly sanitized. When a customer goes to the store, there should be provisions for social distancing and contactless operations to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
- Communicate with the customers: In the wake of the pandemic, everyone is in distress and fear. In such times, if a company can keep communicating with its customers, they will feel considered and cared for. By maintaining contact with its customers, the company can also stay informed about the customers’ needs and wants through feedback, thereby stocking inventory accordingly.
- Make them feel special and valued: By storing customer information such as important dates, companies can surprise their customers with gift vouchers, coupons, gift hampers for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. They can even send over medicines for the aged family members of the customers. Such little things can increase customer loyalty.
- Understand what customers are looking for: Businesses can identify the needs and wants of its customers through research and surveys.
- Added benefits: In these hard times, companies can give their customers free masks and sanitizers with the items they purchase.
It is important for a company to bear in mind the immediate needs of its customers during the Coronavirus crisis. By maintaining strong customer relationships, companies can ensure sustainability and brand loyalty while running their businesses in these challenging times.
Oct 24, 2018