By Sameer Gudhate*

In today’s world, social media networks and messaging apps have transformed the way we converse, and for businesses, it means embracing these technologies to reach their audiences. As the largest messaging application, WhatsApp has more than 2 billion active users worldwide and many businesses have started using it as part of their communication solutions. WhatsApp is ranked as the most used mobile messenger app in the world with more than 100 billion messages sent each day. On an average a user spends 38 minutes per day on the app.

In January 2018, in consideration of high demand for leveraging WhatsApp for a business perspective, WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Business application. WhatsApp Business has impressive features such as Business Profile, Catalogue, Shortcuts for quick reply, Labels Automated messages, etc.

Here are 10 ways you can use WhatsApp and the new Status feature to market your pet products and services and better engage with your customers.

1. Real-time Customer Service

Coming up with real-time customer service is a luxury, small pet businesses cannot afford. But with WhatsApp, a pet store with a small staff team can answer any questions customers might have, swiftly. To a large extent the questions are like – what is the appropriate food for a puppy? or what is the process to deworm a cat? Also, because the app supports rich media, the use of text, audio or video to provide a personal customer service experience is easily possible.

2. Customer Support

Any pet business, in general, provides a multitude of services and whether it is about the use of a product, installation of a product or any other stuff, the store can create video presentations for its customers. These can be easy ‘how-tos’ of tasks customers can do on their own post a product purchase, which actually doesn’t require professional help. Small videos such as installation of a puppy pen or a dog bed are of great help. Customer support can further be extended to live video help or tutorials to provide guidance. This will make your pet business a trustworthy resource a customer can count on and when they need extended services, your pet business will be well-positioned to be the one they call first.

3. Feedback

The open rate for WhatsApp messages is somewhere close to 70 per cent. So instead of calling customers for feedback, the pet business can create questions for them, which they can answer in their free time. (Google Forms is the best option to it – will write at length about it some other time). This is marketing research at its best, and it is unquestionably free. With the feedback from customers, the pet business can respond to their requests and improve its products and services. The customer inputs received can be of great value, which can be rewarded with special offers and coupons to encourage future engagement, brand loyalty, and long term customer retention.

4. Personal Touch

As WhatsApp communication continues to grow, the pet business can personalize interaction with its customers using one-on-one communication. This is especially important for pet businesses because they now can have a direct relationship, where customers can message them if they need a particular product, have an enquiry or need support. Wishing their pet on their birthday with a specially created graphic is an example of personalized communication. WhatsApp can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet or PC, so the pet business will be able to talk to its customers anytime if they choose to make themselves available.

5. Creating and Targeting Groups

Pet Business is a business that specializes in a particular trade or hobby, and by creating or targeting groups on WhatsApp, specifically of its customers or even other pet parents that are interested in related topics, the pet business can increase its customer base. If the pet business creates video content and provides live support, there is quite a possibility that the members will share it with contacts that are outside of the group. This in turn leads to more users consuming the content, joining the group, and eventually, even becoming customers.

6. Promotional Codes, Flash Sales

With the new Status feature, the pet business can create special promotional codes for customers to redeem. Using its WhatsApp Status, it can let everyone in the group know about the promotions it is offering. This could include a two-hour flash sale or a one-day special drive in traffic and create buzz. Based on interaction levels, this can be expanded and promoted with WhatsApp Status exclusive coupons or promotions.

7. Special Access

The instant interaction capability of Status means the pet business can provide special access to events it is holding and send a live feed. If the pet business has a special person or a celebrity who has visited and made a purchase, this can be immediately shared as news with audience. And such updates actually receive good engagement. Just imagine Alia Bhatt being on the pet business status as a customer for her cats!

8. Product Demonstration

Whether the pet business makes its products or just sells them as a retailer, it can demo them on Status and let the group know when any new item is available in its inventory. Very small videos such as making of a cat litter or new treats available for pets with some unique quality are apt examples. Even if the customer doesn’t need these particular products today – knowing they are available, what they can do, and how to use them – he will definitely keep the products and the pet business on top of his mind whenever he needs them in future.

9. Giveaways

The pet business can have weekly, monthly, or even daily giveaways to bring footfalls to its store or visitors to its website. Since WhatsApp is free, the only cost of such promotions is for promotional products or services such dog treats, small cat toys, or fish food etc., which are to be given away. This considerably lowers marketing overheads of any pet business.

10. Collaboration/Partnership with Influencers

By collaborating with nearby businesses and partnering with influencers from pet industry, the pet business increases the number of groups to which it belongs. They need not to be in the same industry. But with Status, the pet business can become part of all these conversations. Even if members of other groups aren’t interested in its products or services, there is a chance that they might mention you in conversations on WhatsApp or other social media platforms.

WhatsApp, as a communication tool, continues to evolve and add more features in future. It is a resourceful platform that enables you to send files, images, and short video clips about your products and services. But the key to using WhatsApp effectively is to avoid abusing relationship you have built with your audience. Measurement of interaction is absolutely necessary to make sure that each message you send has value. The key is to not make every message a sales message.

WhatsApp is turning to be more valuable than ever for businesses. Using it to provide valuable engagement with audience, for learning more about customers’ needs, and as a way of spreading word about your brand are actually the optimum ways to get benefit from it. 

*Author is the only Marketing Consultant in India who helps Pet Businesses to reach out to more and more people for business growth. He also runs Petopedia, the World’s First WhatsApp Daily Pet Magazine for sharing pet related information to Pet Parents. He can be reached out on 9820270247 or samgudhate@gmail.com.

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