The recent Facebook $19 billion acquisition of the WhatsApp messaging service has stunned the tech world. It's nothing new that many businesses are after big data and creating engaging, personalized, yet trustworthy user experiences. The 450 million and growing users of WhatsApp rises challenging questions to what Facebook will do to monetize all of this new acquired data. In 2013 we learned that big data is a trending topic and buzzword, but nobody has quite figured out the analysis part of big data. The mystery of big data lies with many businesses that are struggling to draw actionable insights and monetize the information. I recently had an opportunity to ask Survey Analytics President Vivek Bhaskaran his thoughts on WhatsApp and his vision on how businesses may have upcoming opportunities to effectively use this channel for consumer engagement as it further evolves. Read the full Q&A with Vivek below.
Q1: What are your general thoughts on the WhatsApp application?
Vivek: WhatsApp is a great messaging application. It ridiculously easy and more importantly fast. In fact, many times, its faster than text messaging. Literally. My friends and I have tried text messaging each other via traditional carriers and WhatsApp is even faster than sending a text message. This is phenomenal. This proves that technical superiority pays off. The other thing WhatsApp nailed is permanent ad-hoc group threads. There are very few apps actually out there that can create permanent ad-hoc groups threads and continue a conversation over a long period of time.
Q2: What are your thoughts on WhatsApp becoming a channel for businesses to reach and interact with consumers?
Vivek: This is an interesting concept. Businesses have been trying to reach out to customers over text messaging. ZipWhip is an example of a company that has taking this to the next level in helping businesses interact with their customers via traditional carrier based text messaging and they are seeing phenomenal growth. The growth and adoption signals two things a) Consumers want a high frequency / low latency solution to converse with businesses - b) Consumers want to interact with companies the same way they interact with each other. Given the fact that WhatsApp displaced text messaging for traditional carriers, I see this as a matter of time - it's not a question of "if" - more like "when."
Q3: In the future as this evolves, how do you think brands can effectively reach their audience on WhatsApp?
Vivek: At this point, it's impossible for businesses to have a WhatsApp profile - where customers can add them to the WhatsApp group. But - that being said, businesses are run by people. People have whatsapp installed on their phones. I can see some innovative companies - empowering their sales, account managers and customer support representatives to connect with their customers over whatsapp. We already have customers texting account managers and sales reps - why not give them a channel like WhatsApp to interact. My other though and prediction is that enterprises will want a WhatsApp like solution for their own - where co-workers can talk to each other over a lightweight solution like a mobile IM client - that works anywhere and everywhere. Today - there are some solutions that exist - but nothing that is as sexy and appealing like WhatsApp. I think there is a market there for companies to innovate.