Businesses in Asia often use WhatsApp as a communication and customer service tool. In markets like Malaysia and Indonesia, it remains the primary tool for communication, both social and professional. WhatsApp has grown to become the world’s most popular messaging platform, with over two billion users worldwide.

For the most part, businesses use WhatsApp as a way to communicate with customers and provide support. This can include answering questions, handling complaints, and providing information about products or services. They also use the messaging service to send promotional messages, updates, and offers to their customers. This can be an effective way to reach a large audience, as WhatsApp is widely used and a common platform.

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This ties into a strong push towards omnichannel solutions for many businesses and we wanted to find out more. We spoke to Kat Warboys, Director APAC, HubSpot about their recent WhatsApp integration.

HubSpot recently announced that its native WhatsApp integration is now available to all Professional-tier Marketing Hub and Service Hub customers. Businesses can connect an existing WhatsApp business account to their shared inbox as a messaging channel to communicate with prospects and customers, while also leveraging powerful data within HubSpot’s CRM.

However, how impactful will this be for businesses. Here’s what Kat had to share.

Could you explain what the WhatsApp integration means for HubSpot users?

The nature of digital marketing is an ever-evolving one. Today, consumer preferences are leaning towards a new standard: hyper-personalised information, delivered via the channels that they prefer, and answers in real-time. Consumers want to connect with brands the way they do with their friends and family: with ease and without friction. Businesses need to be receptive to their customer’s preferences and tailor their experience accordingly.

Based on our recently commissioned research conducted by YouGov on behalf of HubSpot, WhatsApp has emerged as the go-to platform for consumers in Singapore, and this presents an enormous opportunity for businesses to be more immediate with how they engage with prospects and customers, adapt to their preferences, and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

With HubSpot’s native integration with WhatsApp, businesses can track all their customer conversations from one unified location and teams get a 360° view of each customer’s conversation history. Customer service teams can now deliver quicker responses and ensure there are no missed messages. Marketing teams can send welcome messages, automate abandoned cart texts, and customise follow-up messages based on past purchases. Customers can respond to these messages immediately, enabling businesses to nurture relationships with customers and prospects through content and real-time interactions and building more human connections with them at scale.

Do consumers in the region typically prefer using WhatsApp as a communication channel with businesses?

With over two billion monthly active users, WhatsApp has become the world’s most popular messaging platform. There are several reasons why Singaporean consumers see WhatsApp as their go-to communication channel with businesses, with convenience, response time, and ease of use topping the list.

Based on our latest YouGov study, when asked why they use Whatsapp to communicate with businesses,  seven in ten Singaporeans shared that they use WhatsApp because it’s convenient and they already use it in their day-to-day life. Half of the respondents shared that they use WhatsApp when communicating with businesses because it saves them time, especially when starting and continuing their conversations. Lastly, four in ten Singaporeans also see shorter response times from businesses and feel that it’s easy to receive relevant information via WhatsApp.

Are businesses adopting WhatsApp as a marketing or customer service channel in Southeast Asia?

In another HubSpot commissioned study, eight in ten marketers in Singapore identified that macroeconomic uncertainties have reduced their organisation’s budgets, team budgets, as well as their clients’ budgets. Amidst uncertain economic times, businesses are looking to differentiate themselves from the competition. The way forward? Meeting customers where they are. WhatsApp presents new opportunities to reach digital-first consumers in personalised and cost-effective ways amid uncertain times. This holds true across the customer journey, from marketing to customer support.

Referring back to our latest YouGov study, 61% of Singaporeans say they use WhatsApp when inquiring about a product or service from a business. When trying to reach a brand directly, 57% of Singaporeans shared that they choose WhatsApp when seeking customer support. Our research further uncovered that WhatsApp is a relevant channel for both B2C and B2B businesses. Over eight in ten (83%) of Singaporeans said that they are likely to enquire for information over WhatsApp for personal product use, while three quarters (76%) of Singaporeans said they would enquire about products on behalf of a company – the latter being the B2B opportunity.

How do businesses balance the fine line between being intrusive and providing an easy communication channel?

Customers are digitally drained, and communication channels are oversaturated. That, paired with economic uncertainty, makes it more important than ever for businesses to leverage existing tools to communicate with customers whenever, and wherever they want.  

We’re seeing a shift in strategy, with marketers using first-party data and contextual marketing to create personalised and relevant content for consumers. Without context, you risk reaching the wrong people at the wrong time. At HubSpot, we’ve built a movement around the methodology of  “Inbound”, doing business in a human, helpful way to create meaningful, one-to-one relationships in order to build trust, credibility, and momentum. It’s an ethos of  attracting audiences by delivering value before you extract value. Businesses can use this methodology to get back to basics and demonstrate an understanding of customer needs.

Most importantly, businesses need to respect customer data and privacy preferences. The HubSpot Customer Code outlines a shared list of principles and beliefs to this end. One of the core tenets of the customer code is “use my data, but don’t abuse it”. In essence, it means data should only be used when the end result is making a customer’s life a little easier.  Businesses need to give customers the option to choose the content and frequency of the communication they receive, the channel in which they receive it and the ability to opt-out whenever they wish to. Spammy emails, sloppy data storage, eerily targeted ads — they’re all no goes.  In essence, the more you know about your audience, the more you can tailor communications to their needs.

What’s next for HubSpot in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia is an exciting market for us, with its growth largely fuelled by SMBs and the availability of digitally savvy customers, for example, Singapore has a 92% internet penetration rate. We see a huge opportunity  to help millions of SMBs adopt the right marketing, sales, and customer service strategies that will enable them to adapt and continue to  grow better through HubSpot’s education, software and support.

In 2015, we opened our JAPAC regional HQ in Singapore as a step to extend HubSpot’s global reach and make an impact with SMBs and  marketing and sales professionals in the region looking for a more personalised and integrated way of doing business. Our team of 200+ in Singapore continues to grow alongside our customer base. Some of our customers in this region include Agoda, EtonHouse, One Championship, NTUC Learning Hub, StashAway, World Vision, Air Asia, Mindvalley, and Spenmo. 

To meet the evolving needs of our customers, earlier this year, we launched free CMS tools which empower businesses to easily create fast, secure, and CRM-powered websites. We also know that digital marketing is changing, and there is a need for businesses to provide personalised experiences to meet customers where they are. The recent WhatsApp integration launch is the latest development in our commitment to building a platform that helps businesses create more connected, seamless customer experiences by tapping on the channels that are more relevant for our customers in Southeast Asia.

At HubSpot, we want to scale with our customers at every stage of their growth. With that in mind, we will continue to evolve our products and services to make high-end solutions, traditionally only offered to large enterprises, readily available to our small businesses and mid-market customers; and at the same time, focus on  bringing a human-friendly product and purchasing experience traditionally seen in small and mid-market businesses up to large enterprises. This helps our smaller customers do more on their own, and helps our larger customers customise their usage of HubSpot as they continue to grow.