WhatsApp – The Real Marketplace

by Shreya Shashank

September 20, 2021 | 02 min read


WhatsApp – The Real Marketplace

I first heard of this app called WhatsApp in 2012 through a friend. My initial thoughts were “What a funny name”. Like it wasn’t sure of its identity. Lesson learnt- don’t judge books and products by their name. My friend proudly shared that she was using WhatsApp to text her crush (Ahem) and I should try it out. I meant the application. And that’s how the WhatsApp saga started for me.

Soon enough, every teenager/student I knew was “whatsapping”. Millennials said hello to a new verb. What’s more, relatives were on Whatsapp too (the biggest downside to WhatsApp really). But would that be all the kinds of users WhatsApp would get to see in its lifetime? Hell no. 

When most of the public was just learning about this new shiny app that lets you connect with people via the internet ”free of cost”, Zuckerberg was probably in his office storyboarding the true potential of WhatsApp and, to be real, the true threats it could bring to Facebook.

You see, at first, the tech industry was focusing on social networking and sharing of personal lives on platforms. But giants who had already made it BIG, ergo Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, actually had the Golden Ticket idea to bring brands and businesses into their world and at the fingertips of their users. Facebook advertising revenues were through the roof. Brands had their own followers, global platform and most importantly, sales. And then suddenly Zuckerberg went like ” Wait a minute!”(I always picture Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, then Mark himself)

A few years back, when a company brainstormed channels for marketing, email would have been the holy grail. Back then Facebook with its 2 bn users, Instagram with 800 mn users, and LinkedIn with its fancy badge of professionalism seeped in. But no one realised, there was another platform out there that had a larger user base than LinkedIn and Instagram combined – Whatsapp. And once the Eureka moment happened, there was no going back. Facebook made its bet in 2014 when it bought Whatsapp for $16 Billion.

The evolution of the Whatsapp Business was no luck. It was a great vision.

Today WhatsApp is a weapon for everyone in the spectrum, from small, mid, and enterprise business owners to giant brands and the precious D2C indie business owners. In 2020, with the world’s war against Covid-19, Bizom got the chance to see the importance of WhatsApp at the periphery of all essentials in the supply chain, trying to make it work. Brands, sellers, business owners, and retailers started directly connecting with each other and the consumers themselves, to tap into the surging demand and to meet the gap caused by the behavioural change in users, the nefarious overstocking. 

Just like in our own personal lives, the concept of remote work got revolutionised, breaking all preconceived notions, similarly, brands pivoted to directly reach out to consumers in unprecedented times. And it is revolutionising the supply chain. Trust us, these revolutions are here to stay. 

Now more so than ever, we have many brands reaching out to us, evaluating direct channels via WhatsApp. Yes, you heard it right, Whatsapp. Brands have rolled up their sleeves with this go-getter attitude trying to solve every demand, every problem when it comes to reaching out to the target buyer. “Want to know which store you can go to buy my product? Let me tell you.” “Want to order the product from here? There you go, here’s your order.” “Want us to place our products near you?” Boom! brands are directly speaking to retailers and optimising their distribution. It seems that brands are in the driver’s seat of their precious car, geared up, a tanker full and with a map to reach out to the billion consumers in India, all with intelligent conversations over text.

A recent study showed that the open rate for business text on WhatsApp is 98%. That’s the highest on any platform. In fact, according to data shared by WhatsApp India to Business Insider, 78% of brands on WhatsApp have also registered sales growth.

The bigger brands have joined the club too, using WhatsApp for D2C sales, retailer orders, order follow-ups, customer service, documentation and even payment. This has a huge impact on the FMCG supply chain, especially when the stores can easily reach out to brands for their needs. 

Back in 2018 when I was a business analyst at Bizom, I had the fortune to work with Sapat on their Tea Business Unit (You must try their Tea. If inner fulfilment had a taste, that’s what it would taste like)  as well as the OTC division. In one of our monthly business review meetings, we were joined by Mr Nikhil Joshi, the managing director at Sapat. We were discussing Sapat’s strategy for growth and optimization and various Bizom solutions such as User/Distributor claims, a BI tool that empowers internal teams with data and a few more business aspects when the Sapat team asked “What about WhatsApp?” We want to reach our retailers directly, talk to them, pass on direct benefits, send relative promotional messages and information on new launches, and help them place orders directly. Is that a possibility?”

Back then it was a novice concept, but now it is a reality of the world and a product by Bizom – Bizom’s FMCG WhatsApp Ordering Bot. Thinking of that meeting, I am always humbled. A regional brand like Sapat was so visionary and passionate about using every innovative platform to reach every customer out there, hungry for growth. It did not take Sapat a crisis to really want to be the engine of their growth and I see the same hunger in the FMCG brands today. Truly, how we do business and how the supply chain works is at the peak of transformation. Whatsapp is no longer just an app, it is a grand marketplace that can help you set up shop inside every house.

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