Can WhatsApp Transform Ecommerce In The Developing World

Can WhatsApp Transform Ecommerce In The Developing World

The digital revolution has truly arrived – The world around us has all gone digital. Most of the services we interact with today are offered through digital channels. Customers are spending more time online and expect to receive the same if not higher levels of service/information online than they would in a traditional store. The digital revolution which is also fondly called the Third Revolution is the global shift from mechanical or analog technology to use of digital technology. It can be broadly said to be aligned with the adoption and proliferation of digital computers all around the world.

Recently on a trip to India i was quite amazed at how the locals have taken to using whatsapp to conduct daily business. Living in Australia i always thought Whatsapp was to be used for text communication and VOIP phone calls which happened once in a while. But in India WhatsApp is changing the game of business and truly enabling the digital revolution in many different ways.

WhatsApp & Ecommerce in the Developing World

WhatsApp has changed the game for everyone from the mom and pop store around the corner to large million $ businesses. Want to check out a product before purchasing it, no issues just text the vendor on WhatsApp and they’ll send through all of the details over WhatsApp….WOW!!!! You don’t have to spend time digging through websites and catalogues to get the information you need. Want to order groceries from the store, no biggie…. just WhatsApp the store owner the list of items and it gets delivered home a few hours later. Want your medicines delivered at home…no worries, just text the store the list of medicines (assuming they are non-prescription medication) and it gets delivered at home or want your news paper delivered before you sip your coffee, just text the vendor and the newspaper is delivered right onto your doorstep. The extent to which today digital technologies like WhatsApp are being consumed to enable business transactions in India has just amazed me. The journey to India and the use of digital technologies by indian customers and business alike to enable businesses has left me impressed.

The missing link – Having lived in Australia for the last decade i am quite used to making use of digital system for purposes of payments, etc. But what totally caught me off guard was the level of customer service, degree of interaction with businesses, the degree of customization business were willing to offer, the responsiveness to customer queries, all through a digital medium like WhatsApp totally easing the flow of information between customers/businesses which has made transacting business so much easier.

The missing link is an integrated payments system i.e. a payment system that integrates into WhatsApp. Apparently I am being told that Facebook who now owns WhatsApp is planning on rolling out some sort of an integrated payments system into WhatsApp across India and a few other developing countries pretty soon. Am not sure of the timelines though. While I would totally expect Facebook to make such a strategic move i also think there’s a dark side to it. Having a payments system tied into a messaging platform (e.g. Wechat in China, etc.) puts huge amounts of information into the hands of the platform owner. The platform owner in this case Facebook understands your likes, dislikes, interests, etc. and can use that information to generate insight that can be used to offer targeted promotions directly to customers. There’s of-course a massive plus side to all of this, transacting business locally in India is going to be come a whole lot more easier while reducing the bar for every mom and pop business to conduct business online.


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