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Chat will boost sales for small businesses this holiday season

Many smaller businesses are counting on a robust holiday season to make up for lost Covid revenue. South Africa's love of chat could not only help ensure a good festive season, but with some swift action, a quick and easy chat commerce implementation can help lay the foundation for a significantly better customer experience, come 2022.

“With 23 million South African users already on WhatsApp, deploying the channel as a means for your customers to quickly, easily and cost-effectively engage with your brand is an exceptionally good way to expand your digital footprint. Given how easy it is to implement chat commerce, local businesses looking for a competitive edge ahead of the summer holidays can boost their digital presence immediately while also preparing for an improved customer satisfaction and retention,” explains Veruschka Diest, director of inside sales at Clickatell.

The argument for providing customers with a chat channel as a means to engage with a brand is quickly growing, with Clickatell’s latest report on chat commerce revealing that 93% of US consumers under 40 have identified significant benefits to doing business on chat. Diest says this trend is tracking along similar lines for South Africa.

“South Africans have quickly become text-first consumers. Many of us dislike speaking on the phone and even older generations have leapt at the chance to use chat over the frustration of engaging with call centres. When it comes to our precious holiday time, this becomes even more true. For example, tracking a parcel can be done any time of the day or night from anywhere in the world. Gone are the days of holding for a call centre agent strictly during their operating hours,” Diest explains.

Enterprise-grade power for smaller businesses

Diest says there is still confusion in the market about the difference between the WhatsApp Business App, which is intended for small businesses who simply want to communicate one-to-one with their customers, and the WhatsApp Business API, which caters to businesses with a need for high message volumes.

In short, the WhatsApp Business App is limited to two devices, has a limited number of recipients per broadcast, and a 100MB limitation on media and messaging, whereas, with the WhatsApp Business API, a business has an unlimited number of recipients per broadcast and no limitation on media and messaging. What’s more, the WhatsApp Business API has the ability to connect thousands of agents and bots to interact with customers either programmatically or via traditional human interactions.

“The WhatsApp Business API brings all the power and benefits of self-service. Brands can easily deploy full chat menus including FAQs which can include store trading hours, as well as sophisticated delivery tracking updates. The great thing about chat is that your customers can connect and speak with a human whenever they need to, so they are not trapped in an eternal tech loop which is often the case in some of the more complex call centre menus,” Diest says.

WeBuyCars is one company that is using the WhatsApp Business API very successfully. “We have integrated the WhatsApp Business API, which was a rather straightforward process. This has enabled us to reach out to our customers via WhatsApp, aiming to better cater for their preferences,” says Nathan Harris, software delivery manager at WeBuyCars. “Currently, we are focusing on it as a platform to reach out to customers, helping them to either buy or sell a vehicle more efficiently. We have noticed the majority being able to respond quicker on WhatsApp than other channels, ultimately allowing us to assist them faster.”

Klarissa Fourie, full stack developer at WeBuyCars, adds: “We are planning to use Chat Flow to build our chat functionality out, providing our customers with the opportunity to easily interact with us via WhatsApp.”

An easy way to support global expansion

As the Covid restrictions ease, many companies are looking to expand their operations. However, a real challenge is how to support customers in new regions.

“Chat commerce is a valuable way to support business expansion. Customer support in new regions can be a complex issue, but chat platforms are ubiquitous and offer a way to reach and serve customers anywhere. Even with language barriers, with just a small amount of translation, companies can roll out chat channels without the expense of hiring and training full call centre teams. The reach of chat is a compelling reason to add it to your channel offering,” says Diest.

Chat to the rescue come December

Rolling out a new channel can seem daunting, but Diest says that after some initial admin, deploying a chat channel is quick and easy.

“There are some obvious application details to take care of, but we have helped businesses get up and running within two weeks. This means local companies can turn to chat to help them take the burden off their staff, many of whom may want to take leave while ensuring that they can still support their customers over the December holiday period,” she says.

More than just an immediate holiday win, Diest says laying the groundwork now for a better customer experience in 2022 holds many advantages.

“There is much to gain by rolling out a chat channel ahead of the upcoming holidays. But it’s also important for local businesses to understand that they will need to build an omnichannel strategy that recognises that the pandemic has forever shifted how globally consumers engage with brands. We are now so comfortable with digital channels that we will actively shun brands that don’t offer them. For smaller businesses looking to give themselves a fighting chance in 2022, chat can deliver a great foundation from which to build. With this in mind, we will be adding the ability for smaller businesses to offer in-chat transactions next year, which is set to be the real game-changer,” Diest concludes.

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