WhatsApp released a product catalog feature for in-app browsing and shopping. Social media platforms have recently been transitioning from communication and marketing tools to a comprehensive shopping space.
This latest change enables small business owners to promote their products more easily and professionally. Instead of releasing images one at a time or having to send multiple messages to communicate key product details, businesses can send customers a complete informational message with a picture, product name, description, and price.
Growing use of social media for online shopping
Social media has been a crucial marketing tool for both large and small brands. Over the past several months, e-commerce features such as direct payment on Instagram, more nuanced chatbots, and targeted advertising through Facebook's custom audiences have rolled out.
But WhatsApp had limited c-commerce functionality: the app only allowed bots, marketers, and small business owners to communicate product information one piece at a time. With more and more e-commerce becoming c-commerce — that is, conversational commerce that takes place in instant messaging apps — and more shoppers researching products on social media platforms, social media is one of the rising platforms for sales.
Before, businesses reaching out to online shoppers had to transmit information in a piecemeal fashion. They could send inquiring shoppers a price, a SKU, product recommendations, and other disparate details. Savvy business users could hyperlink the text to help shoppers navigate to their main website or commerce platform.
However, as online businesses have known for a while, every extraneous click and inconvenience can turn away shoppers. Leads would leave mid-transaction or lose interest.
With WhatsApp's new product catalogs, passive shoppers can browse through professional-looking pages with images and organized product details — and barriers to purchases have been removed.
Business owners can also transmit complete packets of information as a single message to answer customer inquiries. Not only does it mean businesses can replace long question and answer strings with a single interaction, but they can also send an attractive catalog snippet to answer any, or every, question.
In the 'Settings' menu, users can navigate to 'Business Settings' and tap 'Select Catalog.' From there, business owners can add new products and services and provide all of the unique details. This step also allows users to insert SKUs for backend inventory maintenance and links to facilitate traffic.
Once business owners set up the catalog, shoppers can browse it to find new releases, product variations, and seasonal items.
During a chat with customers, business owners can also easily navigate the catalog on their customer's behalf. In the middle of the chat, business users can simply tap their menu to insert media, tap the 'Catalog' option, and select the product they're discussing or the product they recommend. Once the product is referenced in the chat, shoppers can easily make shopping decisions from within the chat itself.
This catalog also appears below users' business information on the homepage of a business' WhatsApp profile as a collection of neatly organized images. When shoppers open the catalog, they can see images, product names and descriptions, and prices at a glance.
From there, they can scroll, buy, or ask questions about specific products without ever having to leave the app.
How to drive more business through WhatsApp Catalogs
Business owners can use social media's embrace of online shopping to generate more traffic and sales. Aside from the direct commerce advantages of having an in-app catalog, small business owners also benefit from:
Shareability: Customers and browsing shoppers can share catalogs and individual products more easily. They can reference products in chats with their contacts, ask their followers for recommendations or opinions, or even promote their favorite items.
Accessible browsing history: Because the catalog snippets are highly graphical and contained within a single message, shoppers can easily search through their app's history to find products they'd previously been interested in. This can reduce frustration and make abandoned purchases more likely to happen.
Purchase prompting: Much like with shopping cart abandonment on social media, easy access and regular prompting can recoup potentially lost customers. Once a customer has engaged with a business and asked about specific products, that business can use that connection to reach out to shoppers if the interaction broke down before a purchase was made.
Ultimately, WhatsApp's product catalog features move the app into the sphere of omnichannel, multi-platform commerce.
This benefits small and large businesses by giving them more avenues to make sales without expending resources or having a drawn-out sales funnel. It also benefits shoppers by giving them more research and buying power where they spend their time: on social media and messaging apps.