WhatsApp Business is a powerful tool for communicating with customers and showcasing your eCommerce business. But even with over 2 billion active users worldwide, not everyone uses WhatsApp to find products or services.
Depending on your audience demographic and location, there are better alternatives to give your business an extra edge. There are also plenty of limitations with WhatsApp Business that make alternatives a viable option worth considering.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons for using WhatsApp Business alternatives, the top WhatsApp Business substitutes, their markets, and bonus mentions at the end. Let’s dive in!
WhatsApp Business offers a ton of value but is not without its fair share of disadvantages. Here are the main ones:
WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business have data protection issues that make them only partially GDPR-compliant. Contacts data and information is automatically synced and read by the app, which goes against GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules. This is a vulnerability that could be an issue down the line.
Although the app can be installed on up to five devices under one account, they must all be linked to the same number. This can be a problem for small businesses as all the employees responsible for communicating with customers will have to share the same account. Tracking which employee answered which customer can be difficult and complicate customer service.
Sellers can send messages to a list of 256 contacts at the same time. But in order for contacts to receive messages they must have the seller’s phone number saved in their address book beforehand. If customers contact the seller for the first time and don’t receive a response within 24 hours, WhatsApp cuts off further communication. This only applies to first-time chats from customers.
Expanding your reach as an eCommerce business is important, which is why we’ve compiled the following list of WhatsApp Business alternatives to help you do just that.
Many eCommerce businesses are required by law to list a business address for state and tax purposes. But whether or not that’s the case, listing your business on Google Maps is a great way to expand your brand and get access to features like Google Business Messages.
You can create or claim your company’s Google Business profile and update it with information and images that will show up on Google Maps. When a customer searches for your business and your store shows up in the results, they can message you directly through Google Business Messages.
Both WhatsApp and Google protect customers from spam by not allowing businesses to respond past 24 hours, which is where automated messages come in. Unlike WhatsApp Business however, Google Business Messages does not have auto-reply functionality built in. It can be integrated through third-party apps, but Google is always adding new features, so it’s likely to be seen in the near future.
Despite a growing migration trend from Facebook to other social media platforms, it still boasts nearly 3 billion active monthly users in 2022. It’s safe to say Facebook is not going anywhere anytime soon, and when it comes to eCommerce specifically, it’s a crucial arena for boosting sales.
While Meta owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, each has its own distinct features and can be seen as a different toolset for your business. With Facebook Messenger, here are a few key differences:
The ability to advertise your product or business page on Facebook makes Facebook Messenger a powerful tool for inbound and outbound messaging that is simply not possible with WhatsApp Business.
Instagram is a powerhouse when it comes to showcasing eCommerce products and has nearly 2.3 billion active monthly users. What puts Instagram Direct on this list is the demographic Instagram has.
Instagram limits its platform to people 13 and above, with over 60% of its user base 18–34 years of age, a prime age group for marketing. Unlike YouTube or TikTok where content consumption is the main goal, 68% of Instagram users say they want to interact with creators.
And speaking of interaction, Instagram Direct is a customer messaging solution for businesses built to encourage just that. Similar to WhatsApp Business in certain aspects, its highlights include:
The last point was used by Starbucks in Indonesia to get a 6X return on ad spend and increased intent to visit their stores.
Telegram has been slowly growing over the years and boasts a user base of 700 million. It’s also highly popular in certain parts of the Baltic, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. And for good reason, as Telegram has better privacy options and end-to-end encryption than WhatsApp.
Telegram allows users to have usernames and protect their phone numbers, along with options on who can view what and enabling self-deleting messages. It has also seen an increase in mainly millennial users since WhatsApp’s controversial privacy announcement in 2021.
Telegram includes all the basic features found in most messaging apps but has underrated features not found elsewhere, such as:
Bots can be created with code to perform dedicated tasks like answering frequently asked questions or auto-responding to customers. Telegram stickers allow brands to create eye-catching visuals that can be shared with customers to increase engagement and expand their image.
It may come as a surprise but normal SMS messages are still an effective marketing channel for businesses. In fact, 48% of consumers prefer SMS to receive brand updates, and billions of SMS messages are sent every day, many from major brands promoting their products.
Here are some reasons to consider SMS marketing for your eCommerce brand:
The main thing to keep in mind is permission needs to be given by customers before you can send them SMS messages. When customers make a purchase and include a phone number in their order, you can incentivize them to sign up for SMS messages through limited offers and special discounts.
If you’ve ever been to China or have Chinese friends, you’ve likely heard of WeChat before. Owned by popular Chinese conglomerate Tencent, WeChat ranks number 5 among the world’s top social media platforms, with over a billion monthly active users.
WeChat is a multi-purpose social media app with integrated payment and messaging options, making it a lucrative solution for anyone looking to tap into the Chinese market. Here are just a few highlights of how WeChat can be used for eCommerce:
Although WeChat is a mobile app, in essence it is closer to being a social media platform like Facebook with feeds, shareable videos, comments, likes, and so on. Even similar to Facebook in its user interface, it allows users to create ad campaigns with banner ads, moments ads (think Instagram stories), and even has dedicated ad channels for influencer collaboration.
For eCommerce brands looking to branch into the Chinese market, WeChat is a must-have that far outweighs WhatsApp Business.
Another popular messaging app in the Asian market is LINE, with nearly 200 million users across the Asian Pacific in mostly Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan. The company has declared $2.36 billion from mainly ad revenue in 2021 and is a prime tool for businesses operating in the region.
Line also has many built-in features for businesses, primarily:
It’s clear from its features and business model that LINE heavily encourages businesses to get on its platform. The fact that it’s free makes it a top choice for any eCommerce business looking to expand into the Asian market.
KakaoTalk takes some key features from both WeChat such as integrated payments and WhatsApp Business with its business profiles. Once a business account has been created, there are several ways to find customers through:
From public chat rooms to built-in K-Pop music players, KakaoTalk is a robust platform that dominates the South Korean market. It has all the tools needed to help businesses grow with integrated payment systems, powerful resources, and a variety of advertising channels.
Based out of Switzerland and founded by former Skype and Microsoft executives, Wire claims to have some of the best privacy and encryption in the messaging space. It is fully GDPR compliant and is 100% open source, with its source code available on GitHub.
So what puts Wire on this list? Its limited user base (estimated at 500,000) may seem like a disadvantage, but there lies its effectiveness. Wire is a suitable option for internal communication, with features such as:
Instead of using WhatsApp or WhatsApp Business to internally run your business, Wire has end-to-end encryption and tools to help manage your team. Its low user base also makes it less likely to be targeted through malware as would be the case with more popular messaging apps.
WhatsApp no doubt dominates when it comes to its number of users, but there are plenty of opportunities to secure different features and marketplaces through the WhatsApp Business alternatives listed above.
When considering which alternative is best for your business, keep in mind: