Leveraging Whatsapp for Conversations & Conversions with Antony Chacko
Whatsapp is changing the way DTC brands interact with consumers. We dwell about the same with Antony Chacko, Founder of Alphamarketer. An agency that helps DTC brands become profitable using conversational marketing.
1. How has WhatsApp marketing changed over the last 4 years?
2. What are current brands doing on WhatsApp and what are the gaps in their implementation?
3. Share a few proven examples of WhatsApp conversations that have helped build customer loyalty on WhatsApp.
4. Automated bots or manual service on WhatsApp? What part of customer journeys and situations do you need to deploy the right response to?
5. How does one handle scale through WhatsApp?
Aashish: Anthony, I stumbled upon your post that you came into the WhatsApp marketing world in 2020. What were you doing before Alphamarketer started? What was working for you before WhatsApp came in?
I started the digital marketing journey in 2007. So these are very early days, you know, at that time, if you say that you are into social media and Facebook, people will laugh at you. They'll say that that's not a career. I started as a blogger and used to write every day and then the digital marketing bug got into me and I started learning about Google AdWords, and Facebook ads. And luckily like I got an opportunity to work with a company called hardcore. They were creating the world's biggest search directory. So I joined them initially, you know, did their media management, like their ads on their website and stuff then learned email marketing, and then finally promoted to a Facebook marketer and then a product manager.
So that was a nice journey for five years where I learned about marketing and technology a bit. And then I joined a company called Royal sank. That's a traditional insurance-based company. So I was responsible for setting up that digital expansion and then I moved on to a company called Flint box that's into hardcore eCommerce.
Journey with Flintbox
It's a subscription-based eCommerce company. So as a very young startup, I was one of the seventh employees. Being an initial founding member, I was involved in building the entire marketing team from scratch. Today there are roughly 200 to 300 odd people in the company.
We took it to a series A funding, and after that, like I spent a good four and a half years there managing the entire marketing and sales operations. And in 2019, I quit my job at Flinto as the marketing head, and I started my own agency Alpha marketer.
So initially the idea was to build an agency as well as share my knowledge, whatever I acquired in the last 13 years in corporate in the form of courses. I wanted to teach people and consult. Post that I spent some seven to eight months sitting and recording, whatever I know in terms of marketing, and copulating psychology.
Fail and everything. And I trained almost a thousand 200 people first and then the pandemic hit. So at that time, the e-commerce boom was like touching its roof. And a couple of companies reached out to me saying, can you help us run ads, Facebook ads? So that's when the agency was born.
So I hired the best of the best that I trained in my courses and built a small team like it's a fully remote team. And then we started taking the, you know, Facebook ads projects. And yeah, I mean, I've been doing Facebook ads for almost 10 years now. Right. So that was easy for us. We were doing, you know, great with that.
How Apple IOS update changed things?
And then the Apple IOS update came. So that's when, you know, things started getting a bit challenging wherein you know, Facebook marketers can't perform well because you can't track the data. We were not able to track Facebook pixels because of Apple iOS policies.
And I also had a background in email marketing, so whatever we can do with email, whether it is post-purchase confirmation, you know, reordering, abandoned cart, all, all these communications that we can do with email we can now do with WhatsApp. Okay. So this, you know, you know, made us excited. And then we took, and implemented this whole WhatsApp API for one of our clients and the results were amazing.
So that's when I thought this seems like a new opportunity. It's a blue ocean altogether. There are not many people doing this, right? So why not create a new category here and you know, focus on eCommerce brands and how we can implement WhatsApp for them.
Whatsapp marketing Entry
So that's how the WhatsApp marketing journey started. And from there on, within a matter of six months, we held around 24 Experiments. Implemented WhatsApp suite of automation’s for them.
After a span of six to seven months implementing it for almost 24 two months back, we decided we are going to take this knowledge, document it and train agencies out there because there was a stage where we were getting booked out for two to three months.
And that was because there were not many agencies in the industry who were not doing this and this information was kind of new and unique at that moment. So we started selling courses on WhatsApp marketing and doing consulting for brands. Because many brands also came to us saying that we want you to train our team on WhatsApp marketing. So then they can do it in-house later on.
Aashish: So Anthony, give us a little idea on how somebody go about starting fundamentals on WhatsApp, and then eventually, what are the gaps that you are seeing, you know in implementation out there?
1. The company has to apply for the API. So, you need to have WhatsApp marketing software. Only with the software, you can apply. You had to go through a BST ( Business solution provider ). There are many companies doing that right now.
2. Post that you have to verify your Facebook business manager.so you have an account on Facebook, you have to verify that your genuine company has submitted your documents, and get it written because Facebook is not going to take the risk because people are going to spam. I mean, we are like, we know that marketers spam and, and spoil everything. So they want to be absolutely sure.
So they make sure they check them. The authenticity of the company and only then they will give the API. Once the API is done, then basically you are, you are given permission to communicate with people via WhatsApp.
3. For starting with the basic setup per se, what I will say is to look at all the email marketing touch points.I know for a fact that a lot of e-commerce companies are implementing email marketing. But they're not very happy with it in India because of the target audience that we are dealing with, It's not necessarily everybody's on email.
A large part of the audience is comfortable doing business or talking or, you know, making any decision where WhatsApp. In the Western world email marketing is very popular and play a very huge part in driving eCommerce revenues. So then for the Indian audience, if you look at, whatever things that we can do with email marketing, whether it is abandoned cart notification that can be recorded by email, it can be done, via WhatsApp also.
What can be done on Whatsapp?
- Auto confirmation messages can be sent by email. It can be done via WhatsApp also. Right? So similarly, your shipping notification, they can be sent via email and also via ours. So just we can start mapping out all the touch points with email marketing, everything can be done via WhatsApp.
- Now the beauty of WhatsApp here is that it's not a one-way communication platform. In most cases, when it comes to email let's assume you get an email playbook on sending your order confirmation. It'll say, Hey, Ashish, you purchased the XYZ product. The cost is so much your order ID is so much that's it, right?
- Probably you will have one link to promote the next product that you want to do. Right. Maybe you'll try to upsell the order information. But with WhatsApp, what you can do is you can start a new conversation with your customer with the help of chatbots. So your auto information will go on WhatsApp saying that you purchase X, Y, Z, product cost, everything.
- And then you can say why not check other products that we have in? And then we can give a button if they click on that, you can actually show the entire catalog and you can show the different
categories, they can select it and they can start interacting with your brand, get to know your brand.
- You can even tell them moving forward, any communication that you want to have, you can have it here, this is our official WhatsApp number. And whether it is supported or you want to buy anything, or you wanna reorder, you don't have to go to Google and search our website name and then go and buy, right?This is our official WhatsApp number. You can either order reorder or get your queries answered.
The power of WhatsApp is that it's, like, you know, you, combine a notification system. So when I say notify system is basically email and SMS. They notify you or push notifications. Plus an interactive website is generally static, right? Now WhatsApp can become your interactive website. So on clicking a button, it can show you a video. It can show you pictures. It can explain and text. Right? Interesting. So now it's a, it's a combination of a notification system, plus an interactive website. Now imagine how powerful this is.
Aashish: So how tough it is to set up these automations with WhatsApp across the customer journey? What apps need to be integrated? What tools can you use for this?
Yeah, see again things are becoming pretty much easy right now.
1. With the API you know, things are becoming better and better as so many software companies are actually now jumping into this risk of building and you know WhatsApp marketing software.
We've been using this tool called Vati.io. That's the tool that we've been fair to. Consistent with, in terms of our business, as well as for our clients also. So I mean they have a very clean UI.
You can drag and drop and build the whole flow. But again, do they have all the features required for Indian DTC eCommerce? No. But the UI is very strong. The system is very stable and they have this in the pipeline probably in the next six months. Many things like you know, Payment via WhatsApp is also possible.
2. Think about your strategy as to, you know, when you want to send and what.This is very important. Like people, you know, once they get the WhatsApp API, they go bonkers and they'll start bombarding all the customers with WhatsApp. . That's not how it should be done. Right. So you need to know what message should be sent in what stage of the customer journey and you have to map that.
3. The copywriting part.
So WhatsApp marketing is a copywriting game. . You need to have a powerful copy to communicate. It's again you had to be short and on point . And again, you can be smart to use a few videos and images to make the whole communication much more impactful. So it's, I will say it's more of a copywriting game and less of a technical one. You know for set up of all this software , you don't have to know coding to build a chat one. You can drag and drop and build stuff. So, and pretty much if you say all these software have a plugin on Shopify. So from Shopify, the information gets passed to this software and they'll automatically send the order confirmation. They will send the shipping details and stuff. They will send the abandoned cart. So when these things are happening, what is standing out is the copy.
Aashish: Anthony, you speak a lot about how conversations on WhatsApp can drive customer loyalty. Can you share maybe two or three proven examples which have worked in your experience?
Antony Chacko: See the customer loyalty part. I think one of the biggest shifts that we have seen is we work with some clients for whom.
We set up the whole WhatsApp flow, the whole WhatsApp marketing suite. Okay. But the major major thing that you know, was the turnaround for the business. Okay. Was seeing, you know, how we can collect data. Okay. How can we acquire as much data as possible? And so what we did is we used to run this kick.
Okay. And get these chats initiated by the customers. And we said, Hey, you know, India is a trust deficit market. People don't trust easily. Right? So sending them to a website and expecting them to read the content themselves, man, then make a decision to buy that's tricky. Okay. I'm not saying it's not happening.
It is happening, right? So no, a normal conversion rate of an ecommerce store will be around 2% to three percent. Okay. The best will be Amazon. Amazon gets a 6% conversion approximately. Okay. So that is because of the brand Amazon, right? So other Shopify stores or another ecommerce store, whatever, whatever best you can do your CROs, it will be not more than two to 3% pitch.
okay. so there is a small segment of people out of a hundred people. Only three people are in that state to consume the content on the landing page and make a decision to buy. Okay. 97 percent have doubts. Okay. So our thesis was this, you know, what, if somebody visits offline. okay. And they enter the offline store.
What is the conversion rate? right. How many people will enter the store and then walk out without buying , it's very less why, because they're able to go there, see the products, okay. Fill the products and they will be salespersons there, you know, in case they need help. Right. So they can talk, you know, build trust.
And once they're convinced they can go and. Right. So you have to imagine your website, like a store. You have an offline store. Your website is an online store and we are spending a lot of money to drive traffic to the store. Right. So why are we not talking to people? Right. So then we convinced the client to set up telesales.
Okay. And I think in India, I think this particular pool of talent who can sell on the phone is amazing. You would've seen so many people calling you for credit cards and bank loads. You have amazing talent out there.
They will just crave data and start calling you without you. so that is bad. Okay. But that doesn't mean that tele calling is bad. Okay. Right. So here, what we are trying to do is when somebody interacts with the ad and they start a conversation, so they start with the conversation, not us. Right. Then we do not handle the query with the help of a chatbot.
Okay. And then there will be a further question. Do you wanna speak to me? Agent right now. Okay. When they do that information is passed onto a CRM immediately. Now within five minutes, somebody will call right. So when you are browsing, you see something that is interesting to you, you click, you have an interaction and then you have an option to talk to somebody who lives right now.
Right. And then they. Right. So over the call when they talk and explain when there's a human-to-human interaction. Okay. Trust building becomes much faster, right? And partly the customer is also able to see a video of the product testimonial of the product. Right. So they're seeing something and they're also talking to people and you know getting nurtured on them.
Right. So that way on, the phone conversion rate is around 25 to 30 percent. Right? Wow. When people talk, right? And this is again, not a, not an outbound call. It's like people initiating a call in a chat and then say, Hey, call me right now. I wanna talk. Right. So once you started doing this, we started accumulating a lot of data and over the phone, the sales started happening.
And then naturally we also set up the renewal. Right to renew the, you know, orders also. Okay. So after a month, assume, you know, somebody purchased a health supplement or, or some kind of a product, which has this repeatability just naturally. For example, there was a client who also had organic bathroom cleaning products.
Okay. All sustainable, all you know, green you. Nice products, which you need every month, right? Every month you need something to clean your bathroom and you know, all your bathroom essentials. So that product had this repeatability. People used to order every, you know, single month. So automatically within a month they get notifications saying that, Hey is it time to renew or refill your products?
And then the bot will have an option? Yes, no. If they say yes, then they'll, they'll get a payment link. . Okay. And there are not many options right there. It's a pack of two packs of three packs of four. They select one, they make a payment and the payment is done. Okay. Now, just in. People saw it, but missed to respond because they're busy right now.
The system can track as to, you know, what out of hundred, let's say 40 people responded that they wanted and they automatically, they renew it. Okay. Six people for some reason did not, did not open it or did not respond to it. Those 60 people are then called by the tele team. All right. Right. So you can use technology to front load it and.
The things that you want, the things that are not automated are like where, where you, where not with response, then you can have your manual entrenched and then close over the phone. Okay. So that way it was very effective to get these repeat orders and, you know, renewal happening. Right. So there was a case around for one of our biggest clients.
We were able to. Almost 65,000 odd phone numbers in the last one year. Okay. With the ads. Okay. And they already had, so it's a two year old company. So historically they had the past customer data and stuff. That is another one lacks card phone numbers that they had. Right. . So month back
Aashish: Are phone numbers just enough for you to do stuff?
in the sense, in the sense like, like I think, do you want, do you always also go back and ask them information on segmentation of no. So
Antony Chacko: what I also, what I meant to us, they are already running ads. Okay. On Facebook promoting one particular product, one single product. Okay. Now they generated 65,000 leads.
Okay. Okay. Who, who did the stick to. Ads. Right. So you've got so much database plus your customer data as well. Okay. And unfortunately one fine day, their Facebook ad account got blocked. okay. Because of some RBA regulation, the payment that their card did not go through, so the payment was not happening.
So then a corn bar froze. Right? So suddenly this happens with most. Due to C brands. Okay. There is so much dependence on ecommerce on Facebook ads. And we have a situation where the RBI policies keep changing. And because of that, if something happens suddenly there is a business business.
Disruption, right. You can't do business the next day. If they are not running, they're not getting new traffic and there's no sales. Right. But luckily this brand actually sailed for the whole month. Okay. Because they had the old data and they set up their calling team to call and they ended up making 1.6 crores that month.
Right. So did they,
Aashish: did they call 65,000 ?
Antony Chacko: people? No, they did not. I, I didn't mean that they called everybody, but whatever was. Right. Okay. They call it the majority of renewals. Okay. Majority were renewals. Okay. So basically what is happening is we are mitigating the risk by starting to accumulate data, right?
So slowly you can start. You know, lowering your dependency on ad platforms. Okay. So you can start seeing the ad budgets as an investment to accumulate data, so that over a period of time, you own enough data that in case suddenly if something happens with the ad account, some policy regulation happens.
You still have data to go back to. Now do your business.
Aashish: Interesting. Anthony, you also pointed out that customers can interact with the WhatsApp business API and reorder, change their purchase, request a new product and more. How can a DTC brand set this up in the backend ?
Antony Chacko: So again this part of, you know, getting, you know, customer data and then modifying in the backend. Now it is happening in phases.
Let's assume cash on delivery. The order has happened and you want to verify the phone. So normally what we do is we send OTP verification, right? Now, instead of OTP, you can send a WhatsApp verification. So it'll say, Hey Aashish, you made a COD order on the XYZ website and you can actually print the entered address.
And then there is, you know, a button saying, confirm the order/or modify it / or cancel the order with three buttons. If they click on confirm the order, which means the phone number is correct because only if they have it on WhatsApp, they get the message and they can confirm.
And they've also given consent, you know, the, yes, I made the specific order. It's not a fake order.Number one, number two if they click on modify the order.
With the information prefilled, they can place the order and if they say cancel an order, then yes, these tools have the integrated Shopify, so they will go and cancel the order.
Aashish: Interesting. I'm sure your team has written a lot of copies for people on WhatsApp may to drive and repeat orders or get someone to buy a larger ticket product. Can you share some inspirations to our listeners of three copies that help conversions?
1. For an abandoned cart, you can be like a straight point saying that, Hey, Ashish oops, you forgot to complete the order but we have saved it for you. But this particular product is in super high demand and it might turn stock anytime. Why not complete the order? So we've saved it. Just click on the button below and complete the order, right? Something like that. Basically, you can also add some personality to it, make it fun also because it is WhatsApp, right? People don't like formal.I've seen cases where for, you know, beauty brands, right. We have instances of copies where you call them.
Hey, beautiful. You know, a face makeover routine is incomplete. The priority you were waiting for.
2. The next thing is definitely your order confirmation.
That is super valuable because once somebody makes an order, they're immediately expecting a confirmation issue, right? Yeah. They wanna confirm whether the payment went through or the order is confirmed or not. Right. Yeah. So that has the highest-ever open carry.
So on that point, what do you want to communicate? So many brands. Kind of, was it by saying, Hey, followers on Instagram or Facebook, right? That's not required. Like that's prime real estate, you know, why not use it to get more sales, right? Yeah. So that there, you can give some kind of a coupon that they can, you know use it for the next purchase.
That is something that can be done.
3. The third use case is called conversational feedback. So what do we do is let's assume you purchased a face wash.And after 15 days after you you buy it, we can send a message saying that “ Hey, Ashish, you purchased vitamin Z face wash. How was the experience? And then you give options? Like I loved it, I liked it, I don't wanna talk about it. So the two buttons are positive and one.
If they click on the positive button, right. Immediately the bottle responded saying, Hey, Aashish, that's great. Know that you enjoyed the product. So we want to make it even more amazing. We are gonna give you an extra 20% off now, right? If you buy it right now, So at the very moment.
Let's assume a hundred people got the feedback message and say, 40 of them said they are loving the product. And then they got presented with this offer to buy, Assume they're busy in an office or they are like you in a podcast right now. They got this message. They couldn't respond to it, but they liked it. . Even in that case, you can track out of a hundred, these 40 people who said yes, they liked it.
If they did not buy, you can always be nice and ask for feedback over the phone and in a feedback session over the phone, you can certainly pitch the next product or sell further.
Aashish: Awesome. Thanks, Anthony. I think that those are really nice use cases, which DTC brands can leverage.
Shall I use a WhatsApp group to communicate with people where I bring them on, right? Or should I create a broadcast list or should I use WhatsApp API to, you know, drive all of that? So I'm sure with these three sets of tools there are different kinds of use cases for DTC brands. Can you please point out how each one of the channels should be leveraged on with its own offerings and with its own value?
So in a group, the biggest problem is assuming you are able to add to 50 people in the group. Every other person can see the phone and they can scrap them. So just the biggest privacy problem there. So groups are not good. Then so many people will be spamming unless moderated. That'll annoy so many people. Right. So groups and broadcast lists are not for businesses.Maybe for a small mom-and-pop shop. Broadcast work like you have this WhatsApp business app for small businesses. That is not the API. That is, that's just a small one that you can have on your phone.
You can have an app and then you can set up your catalog and stuff right. If you have a customer, then you can create a broadcast list and send a broadcast. But this is for small operations. But if you're a top toy brand and you have like thousands of customers coming in every single month,? That's not the way forward. . You need to have a much more you know, lean, clean system. To have these two inflow communication, manage them properly, respond to them and also ensure there is data security for the customers. So WhatsApp API will be the way to go if you are operating at a large scale.
Aashish: I'm starting to feel so powerful about WhatsApp right now to talk to consumers, to convert them, to build loyalty, whatever you want. And this can work at scale if you use the API, right? Yeah. Yeah. And start building your automation, start building your interesting triggers, you know, campaigns all around it.
What's the landscape right now in WhatsApp marketing,? What I mean by that is what do you foresee? From the technology front growing for the next four to five years to come, how that is gonna play a role for DTC brands? What are the other features that you think are in pipeline or you know, good to have, must-haves for DTC brands to come?
Antony Chacko: I think if you look at the motivation of the parent company, Facebook,
It's that, you know what, they don't want anybody to interfere in between and say you can't collect data. So they want to bring everything within their platform, so Facebook will definitely try to make sure that people can have a seamless purchase experience within WhatsApp. So if you're an eCommerce store, you can put the entire catalog within WhatsApp.
People can choose it, add it to their cart and then buy it. So now the payment options are also available with you know certain providers like razor pay. So they are giving this option to integrate payment within WhatsApp itself. Now WhatsApp has its own native payment feature called WhatsApp pay.
That has not been officially rolled out yet on a large scale. So we can expect another three to six months.
If that comes, it will be a game changer. Wherein UPI payments will be promoted and people can pay quickly. And probably they did not even have to enter the address multiple times. So once you're using WhatsApp pay, I think they will have a record of your address once.
If people can easily pay, I think people will be comfortable paying via WhatsApp. That's the biggest thing. And apart from that you know, see I am also forecasting seeing an option where you can search for businesses within the WhatsApp directory. You can open WhatsApp, then do a search.
If you search, Probably they'll show a search listing of all the verified companies who are having WhatsApp API. Then they can also map by your location.
Aashish: Thank you so much for being here.