Among the multitude of messaging apps, there are two that you absolutely can’t afford to ignore: WhatsApp and WeChat. Due to a combination of sheer popularity, an attractive user base, and innovative features, organizations that don’t engage with customers and employees over these platforms may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Yet many companies, particularly those in regulated industries like financial services and healthcare, have understandable reservations about jumping on the bandwagon due to security and compliance concerns. If you’re on the fence about WhatsApp and WeChat, here are some things to consider.
A massive, ubiquitous audience. WhatsApp and WeChat’s worldwide popularity averages 1.3 billion and 889 million monthly active users, respectively. WhatsApp was ranked by SimilarWeb as the most popular app in over half of the world’s countries. WeChat, for its part, has massive user bases in such populous countries as Malaysia and India. And in China, where it it’s hands-down the top messenger app, it’s so popular that it’s taken a serious bite out of iPhone profits there, as many consumers feel they can get all the same benefits from a single app that can run on a cheaper device.
A strategic audience. Aside from its massive user base, WeChat’s customers use the app in frequent, long intervals. eMarketer reports that more than 90 percent of WeChat customers use it daily, the majority of them more than 10 times per day, and The Telegraph reports that one-third of WeChat’s users spend four-plus hours per day on the app–more than Facebook. Furthermore, according to eMarketer, 86 percent of WeChat users are in the highly coveted 18 to 35 marketing demographic. And with WhatsApp, you get the benefit of Facebook’s highly targeted marketing tools, which allow you to drill down and across demographics to get the right message to the right audience.
Great marketing, customer service and workplace features. All else aside, WhatsApp and WeChat are formidable products. WeChat is a “super-app” that lets you IM with groups of up to 500, shop, play games, make voice and video calls, share multimedia content, and add contacts through a myriad of external apps (and we’re really just getting started). WhatsApp is fast, efficient and free, and can help you to quickly publicize your brand at low cost and provide an engaging customer experience, all while generating CRM-enhancing data. It also makes it incredibly easy for workplace teams to collaborate.
Security. WhatsApp’s encryption features have been both a source of relief and consternation. While there can be no doubt that encryption appeals to companies looking to manage rogue employees with nefarious motives, it also drives usage by employees who have nothing but the best motives. As concern about data leakage, espionage and other snooping continues to rise, the benefits of a platform that thoroughly prevents parties outside your organization from accessing your employees’ conversations becomes increasingly clear.
Cracking new markets. As the most popular app in Brazil, India, and Malaysia, WhatsApp represents one of the top ways that people in many countries are connecting digitally, and offers a way to reach hundreds of millions of consumers that might otherwise be unreachable. And while nearly everyone would jump at the chance to tap the world’s largest consumer market, they’d also agree that, for outsiders, marketing in China is a perplexing undertaking. However, experts like Ashley Galina Dudarenok of ChoZan assert that WeChat offers the ability to crack that market on a low-budget, with in-house resources. As Ben Thompson wrote, “every aspect of a typical Chinese person’s life, not just online but also offline, is conducted through a single app (and, to the extent other apps are used, they are often games promoted through WeChat).” Meanwhile, WeChat is investing heavily in expansion into Europe, emphasizing not only the ability of advertisers to reach homegrown audiences, but also visiting Chinese tourists.
Get on the WeChat/WhatsApp Train, but be Smart About it. To put it simply, WhatsApp and WeChat are the future–their already stellar popularity is only increasing, and both apps are continuing to expand their capabilities. None of us should expect this trend to be derailed–that is until another app comes along that provides even cooler features–companies that ignore these technologies do so at their own peril. But with all that said, there are risks associated with these apps that need to be managed, particularly for companies in regulated industries. WhatsApp and WeChat have been making waves in the media, both for their astronomical growth AND the companies that have gotten into trouble because of messages sent through these platforms that violated industry regulations. In addition to the potential pitfalls of encrypted messaging, the ability to have large groups of people communicating in tandem presents something of a compliance nightmare–preventing sensitive information from being shared can be very difficult.
Some companies—and even governments—have gone as far as to ban the platforms (particularly WhatsApp). But is this the right strategy? By doing so, they may be cutting themselves off from hundreds of millions of potential customers, and scaring away excellent employees. But by embracing these channels they’re risking massive fines, data leakage and lawsuits. The right strategy, therefore, is to onboard these channels into your company’s communications fabric, but ensure that you do it in a way that supports compliance at every level.
For more about how Actiance Socialite can help you stay compliant when using WhatsApp and WeChat, click here.