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How to harness WhatsApp for business

By SHAUN VAN ROOYEN, Strategic Accounts and Partnerships Manager for Infobip Africa

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Today, customers demand more than ever before from brands, including fast, personalised, reliable and free two-way communication.

Organisations that have realised how important it is to reach their customers where they are and on a communication channel that they know and trust, are increasingly looking to WhatsApp Business API (Application Program Interface) as their preferred platform to facilitate this communication, and with good reason.

World’s most trusted chat app

WhatsApp currently boasts 1.5 billion active subscribers, across 180 countries, making it the world’s most used chat app. Unsurprisingly, it is also the most widely used chat app on the African continent, as well as in South Africa, where nine out of 10 Internet users are active on WhatsApp, according to research findings.

Aside from the ubiquitous nature of the chat app, WhatsApp Business API has the potential to connect businesses with customers in a familiar and privately secure way. By providing services over the channel, organisations can expect to increase the likelihood of customer engagement and consequently loyalty due to convenience, trust and familiarity this chat app provides. As a result, they can ultimately move their business in a new direction by introducing a ‘pull strategy’ that is engaging, interactive and fun and move away from a more costly low ROI (Return On Investment) traditional ‘push strategy’.

The customer-centric approach to communication

The channel allows organisations to leverage rich and branded content, such as images, sound, documents and video, as well as conversations initiated by themselves or by their customers.Using WhatsApp Business API, a brand can build a rich multimedia two-way communication channel with its customers at an enterprise scale.

The benefits to mid-sized to large enterprises, is that they can use WhatsApp Business API for a wide range of customer-centric communications and queries that automate processes which include applications, and registrations, status confirmations and updates , location services, transaction alerts, one-time pin’s , Two Factor Authentications (2FA’s) and payment reminders, among others.

Essentially, it is the ideal communication channel for companies that have a large customer base and a large volume of Business to Consumer (B2C) activity, and whose call centres or offices are routinely inundated with repetitious queries. WhatsApp Business API is perfectly positioned to take over this form of communication and provide a self-service channel that is easy to use and can be automated without frustrating the customer.

Increasing automation to deal with critical issues

The benefit of introducing automation via a channel such as WhatsApp Business API into a call centre is that it frees up call centre agents to deal with more intricate and urgent queries.

A recent example of this is a local bus ticketing company that handles a call volume of about 10 000 calls a week, with about 80% of the queries being about whether a bus is leaving for a specific destination on a particular day, what the price of the ticket is and what the time departure is.

The company’s call centre agents had to repeatedly go through the same process, which was time-consuming,labour intensive and in some cases demoralising. Automating this communication via WhatsApp Business API, would take a massive load off the call centre and allow agents to deal with critical issues, such as attending to customers who have bought the wrong ticket, or those trying to trace a refund.

These are typical issues that need human intervention, however, a team of real-time chat agents and the customer can continue to use WhatsApp to chat rather than speaking to an agent telephonically.

Hence, there is no need to fear that chat apps will make humans redundant but could in fact create new positions for those who will need to become real-time chat agents, manage the system and teach the chat agents or Chatbot the required language to use.

Security is key 

It is also worth reiterating that WhatsApp communications are end-to-end encrypted to extremely strong standards. In fact, the chat app’s messages are more secure than many other digital channels and are just as well suited to confidential messages as SMS or email.

Innovative and forward-thinking companies, that are bold and agile enough to seize the opportunity, are upping the stakes on conversational commerce by enabling the customers to use WhatsApp Business API to communicate and transact with them. Can your organisation afford to be left behind?

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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