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What converts better, email marketing or WhatsApp marketing?

Miodrag Magyar
October 30, 2022

For years, email was one of the most effective tools used by eCommerce marketers to generate leads, win new customers, and improve sales numbers. However, times are changing. There are new players on the block, and they want their share of the market. 

Looking at the statistics, email marketing is here to stay. Worldwide, there are 319.6 billion emails sent and received daily, and the numbers are rising. The average email subscriber receives 416 commercial emails every month. That’s 13 emails daily!

Enter WhatsApp – With over 2 billion users worldwide and more than 50 million businesses who use it to interact with customers, WhatsApp is a must-have channel for customer service, marketing, and sales. In this article, we’ll try to understand which tool has more potential to convert prospects into loyal customers.

Email Marketing and its declining ROI

There is no doubt that email marketing is a powerful tool for any brand. It generates $42 for every $1 spent, ensuring one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) compared to other communication channels. However, it’s not hard to predict what the future brings.

According to a survey conducted in 2021 among consumers worldwide, more than four in ten respondents often unsubscribe from brand emails. The decline in response rates and ROI on email marketing has led some brands to rethink their strategy and shift their B2C communications to messaging apps.

This trend only becomes more pronounced with the arrival of the new generations. According to many studies, gen Z and millennial consumers prefer text messaging over other communication channels because it’s more personal, less invasive, and makes them feel valued by brands. They feel comfortable engaging with brands over chat, and are confident with online purchases and payments via messaging apps. 

Millennials and Gen Z are the largest adult demographic, accounting for 53% of the world’s population. They are the shaping force of the economy today, and as their behavior influences the evolution of marketing strategies, the decline of email marketing is inevitable. 

People live on their messaging apps

Fueled by the mobile internet and the increased use of smartphones, B2C interactions over messaging apps are integral to any marketing strategy. People, especially younger generations, prefer faster interactions enabled by messaging apps like WhatsApp. 

This is the era of instant messaging. A survey by Study Finds confirms that about 62 percent of young adults would rather forget their wallet at home than their phone when going out. Nearly 70 percent of the group surveyed said they could see a future in which all purchases are made online.

Marketers looking to build meaningful relationships with Gen Z and millennial audiences would be wise to invest in WhatsApp marketing if they wish to stay competitive in today’s market.

Why should I believe that messaging apps will increase my ROI?

The spam folder is the place where beautifully crafted promotional emails go to die. One of the most crucial indicators of marketing success is customer engagement. What do you think? How many of those 320 billion emails end up in spam folders? Almost half! It’s no wonder people consider virtually every email they receive from a business to be spam.

Traditional email marketing has an average open rate of only 21.33%. Compared to that, WhatsApp messages are opened more than 90% of the time. Nowadays, people find it more convenient to receive information in real-time through quick messengers like WhatsApp rather than long, slow emails.

Facebook surveyed users across 4 markets (Brazil, India, the US, and the UK) who message businesses. Over 64% say they message businesses because they’re “always messaging anyway.” More than 61% say messaging is the easiest, most convenient way to contact a company. Over 50% of customers believe they will get faster responses, better advice, and more truthful replies on WhatsApp.

With WhatsApp, the chances of your message reaching the customer are sky-high. On average, a user checks WhatsApp over 23 times a day.

What messaging channels should I focus on? 

There are over three billion messaging app users worldwide. Whenever customers want to get in touch with businesses, they turn to message apps like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger.    

Customers will likely engage with you on a messaging app they already use. So, if you have a dilemma about which messaging channel to use for your business, always go for the most popular one.

The more people use a particular messaging app, the more likely they’ll connect with your brand over that app. While apps like Telegram, Viber, WeChat, LINE, and KakaoTalk have an edge for specific use cases in some regions, in terms of global popularity, WhatsApp, with its two billion users, is the most popular one.

A brief introduction to the WhatsApp world

Initially, WhatsApp was developed as a status update application, launched in 2009. At first, that was all the app could do - share updates about users’ whereabouts, allowing them to ping their friends.

When people started to use statuses to chat with each other, WhatsApp matured into the instant messaging app billions of people love to use today.

Today, WhatsApp is used by more than two billion people in over 180 countries, making it the most popular messaging app. Since the business version of the app was released in 2018, over 50 million companies have leveraged WhatsApp to stay in touch with their customers.

The WhatsApp Business app comes with additional features that enable businesses to increase their reach and engagement rates. The app enables businesses to boost their marketing results with broadcasts, integration of a product catalog, and basic automation like welcome and away messages.

In 2018 WhatsApp Business API was launched, introducing more advanced features, such as unlimited broadcasts, powerful automations and chatbots, analytics, and more.

According to the latest statistics, in 2021, users worldwide spent approximately 18.6 hours using WhatsApp per month. That’s more than half an hour spent daily messaging with friends and brands. With its high open and engagement rates, convenience, and advanced features available with WhatsApp Business, marketers consider WhatsApp essential for sales, marketing, and customer service.

How do I run a simple marketing campaign over WhatsApp?

WhatsApp has shunned ads since the beginning. “No one wakes up excited to see more advertising. No one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow.” - said the founders of WhatsApp. 

Staying true to their vision, WhatsApp doesn’t allow traditional ads. This statement might sound horrifying to any marketer, but as it often happens in life, challenges present new opportunities. Businesses adapted to these and other rules enforced by WhatsApp and developed new marketing strategies. In some cases, they proved to provide even better ROI.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” so before we dive into explaining how to conduct a marketing campaign over WhatsApp, let’s prepare your WhatsApp Business account for success. 

Business profile

With WhatsApp Business, you can set up a Business profile to establish a formal business presence on WhatsApp. Your business profile will make it easy for your customers to get to know you. The business profile will display your business name, description, address, business hours, and category. You can add your business email, website, and social media accounts to boost engagement. Make sure you complete every section.

Product catalog

It’s convenient to send a single product or multi-product message to a customer interested in your offerings. You can do that with WhatsApp without leaving the app. The WhatsApp product catalog lets you showcase your products and services so customers can effortlessly browse and message you to ask questions. Customers can also choose a product or service they’re interested in and share it with their friends, helping your business reach new prospects.

Opt-in

To receive messages from businesses, customers must first opt-in, meaning they have to consent to be added to your list of contacts. This may sound like a drawback to some. Building an audience is not an easy task. However, once you connect to a considerable number of customers, you realize the massive potential of this method. 

Imagine being able to promote your products or services exclusively to your target audience and not waste time and resources reaching out to people not interested in your brand. Businesses spend fortunes to determine who is in their target market. With WhatsApp, you don’t have to. All your connections are already people who want to buy from you.

So, what’s the best way to build your audience? You can collect opt-ins on and off WhatsApp. Your website, social media profiles, posts, and ads are all effective channels for obtaining new customers willing to receive messages from your business. You can opt-in through SMS, a WhatsApp thread, or interactive voice response (IVR) flows. 

Make sure your opt-in method is compliant. WhatsApp has these three requirements for obtaining opt-ins:

  1. Clearly state that a person is opting in to receive messages from your business over WhatsApp,
  2. State the business name that a person is opting in to receive messages from, and;
  3. Comply with applicable law.

Campaign goals

Before launching a marketing campaign on WhatsApp, as with any other campaign, you first need to ask yourself: 

  • What do you want to achieve with it? 
  • Do you want to boost your sales? 
  • Increase your brand visibility and awareness?
  •  Promote a new product or service?
  •  Re-engage customers who haven’t been active recently? 

A clear overview of your campaign goals and results will help you understand whether your marketing strategy positively impacts your bottom line.

If you completed all requirements I laid out above, you are now ready to start your marketing campaign via the WhatsApp Business app, or through a customer communication platform like Rasayel if you use the WhatsApp Business Platform/API.

Wait a minute. Why do I need a customer communication platform?

Suppose you want to leverage the superior possibilities of the WhatsApp Business Platform/API. First, you’ll need to connect it to a third-party application, as the API doesn’t have a user interface. With a platform like Rasayel, you’ll be able to have a more structured and organized customer relationship management, use advanced automation and chatbots, your team members can collaborate in a team inbox, conduct marketing campaigns with advanced broadcasts, and more.

How do I run a marketing campaign via the WhatsApp Business app?

WhatsApp created the business version of the app with micro-businesses in mind. It’s a convenient tool for answering simple customer queries and running basic promotional activities that have the potential to help you grow your business.

WhatsApp Broadcast is your primary tool for running a marketing campaign on the app. This feature allows you to have one-to-many communication with your customers. It’s similar to running an email campaign but packed into a bite-sized message that gets right to the point - just the way customers like it.

You can send this message in text, video or audio, or any of the common file types. If you want to know more about the different message types supported by WhatsApp, you can read WhatsApp message types and use cases.

The broadcast feature in the WhatsApp Business app allows you to create lists with up to 256 of your customers. If your customer base exceeds that number, simply create more than one list. If you want to tailor a different approach and marketing activities to the specific types of customers, make a separate list for each category of customers - new customers, loyal customers, potential customers… That way, you can target your customers depending on your marketing goals.

Another way you can categorize your lists of customers is by the type of product or service they bought from you. Let’s say you run a bookstore and have a broadcast list with all your customers who purchased a book by Dan Brown. Next time you want to promote another book by the author, or a thriller novel that you know Brown’s fans would love to read, you can send a promotional message to that list only, and not to all your customers.

How do I run a marketing campaign with Whatsapp Business Platform/API?

If you run a micro business with a small customer base, the WhatsApp Business mobile app is probably sufficient to answer your needs. However, once your connections with customers increase, it’s time to tap into the power of Whatsapp Business Platform/API.

The Business Platform was introduced by WhatsApp to fulfill any company’s needs, whether a small business or an enterprise. Here you can build profound relationships with your customers, increase the conversion rate, boost your sales, and enjoy lower marketing costs, compared to any mass media channel. However, this article is about running marketing campaigns, so I will focus on the features that will enable you to run a successful campaign. Read this if you want to learn more about The difference between the WhatsApp Business app and WhatsApp Business Platform/API.

Unlimited Broadcasts

With WhatsApp Business API, you can take advantage of unlimited broadcasts. Whereas the WhatsApp Business app allows you to create a broadcast list with up to 256 contacts, here you are not limited to how many people you can send bulk messages to. And the best part, when you use a customer communication platform like Rasayel, importing contacts from a spreadsheet is painless.

Message templates

With WhatsApp Business API, you must use message templates to initiate a conversation with your customers. Templates are pre-defined messages that have variables and placeholders. When a template is sent to the recipients, the variables are replaced with dynamic content according to your data. That way, you can make them personalized and relevant to your particular broadcast list. You can send a template message multiple times, so the extra work you’ll put into creating these messages will pay off in the future by saving you time and resources.

Interactive message templates

WhatsApp Business API supports interactive message templates that allow customers to choose one answer from a suggested list or a call-to-action button. These features significantly increase customer engagement.

Analytics

If you want to develop and run a long-term marketing strategy, having insights into your campaign performance is crucial.

Running a WhatsApp marketing campaign through a customer communication platform gives you all the necessary information about the results of your promotional messaging. These insights will help you better understand what works and what doesn’t in terms of open rates, customer engagement, and rate of conversion.

What tools can I use?

With all being said, should you underestimate the value of email? Definitely not! Email marketing remains a powerful tool for converting prospects into customers, especially with older generations. Furthermore, studies have shown that in some countries, consumers prefer to interact with businesses over email rather than messaging. 

Instead of sacrificing one in favor of the other, it’s best to use both channels in tandem. That way, you can maximize your reach and deliver your campaign message to a broader audience.

Email marketing tools

One of the most popular tools for email marketing is Mailchimp, a marketing automation platform and email marketing service that enables you to run beautifully designed campaigns and powerful automation and data analysis.

Mailchimp offers four different pricing models, including a free plan to help you start growing your business, and three paid plans, Essentials costing $11 per month, Standard at $17, and Premium at $299 per month.

Sendinblue is another powerful tool with much to offer in automation and list management. All Sendinblue plans include unlimited contacts. With the Free plan, you can send up to 300 emails per day. The paid plans include Starter, which starts at $25/month, Business at $65/month, and Enterprise at $1,000/month.

WhatsApp marketing tools

Running a marketing campaign with the WhatsApp Business app is free but, as we talked about earlier, it has some significant limitations. You can only set up broadcast lists with 256 contacts, and there is no analytics to track the performance of your promotion.

With the WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you can leverage powerful automation, detailed analytics, team inbox, advanced broadcast features, and more. WhatsApp will charge you per conversation, which includes all messages delivered in a 24-hour session.

The WhatsApp Business API is not freely available, and businesses can only subscribe through official partners authorized by WhatsApp, known as WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSP).

BSPs like Twilio have per-message pricing, while others, like 360dialog offer a flat pricing model. Choosing the best value-for-money option depends on the number of messages you plan to send.

To use the API, you must integrate it into a customer communication platform. Rasayel offers a 14-day free trial period and plans starting from $60 per month for three team members, and unlimited messaging. 

The programmatic nature of WhatsApp Business API provides virtually unlimited possibilities for integration. If you are a technical person or have a tech team, you can take advantage of the platform to suit your exact needs.

Verdict

While email marketing is still a dominant channel for B2C communication, running a campaign on messaging apps like WhatsApp delivers more results in terms of open rates, customer engagement, and conversions. The convenience of using WhatsApp to communicate with businesses creates more meaningful interactions, which contributes to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. This is especially true among younger generations.

To learn more about WhatsApp marketing, read How to increase your Sales with WhatsApp bulk messages (to be published in 2 days).

If you’d like to learn more about how WhatsApp can help you grow your business, please reach out to us on WhatsApp at +13024070488

We also offer a free consultation session where we go through your use case, answer any questions about WhatsApp, and help you build a strategy to make the best out of the platform. Book a call with us here. We’d love to speak to you:

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