How India’s Largest Crowdfunding Platform Doubled Donations with WhatsApp

In college, I worked in retail. When I wasn’t folding jeans or cleaning diapers out of changing rooms, part of my job was convincing customers to sign up for daily SMS promos.

“But I’ve already signed up for the emails,” they would say as I cornered them between stacks of denim.

“This is different,” I would lie.

Every morning they’d get a message letting them know which stretch pants were 70% off. It didn’t sit right with me. Daily automated good-morning texts from a company begging you to spend money? Not cool. It wasn’t like these people could reply, either. The company was hurling leggings into the void and hoping people would catch them.

The outbound SMS mess

The problem with SMS is that outbound marketing messages aren’t conversational. There is no guarantee, for example, that a customer replying to the stretch-pants sale notification will get a response from the company. Too many businesses have been treating SMS as a funnel for junk and missing opportunities to create personalized conversational experiences.

It’s not entirely the fault of eager marketers. Existing infrastructure hasn’t made it easy for businesses to use messaging channels effectively. Often, the system that sends out the notification and the one dealing with customer support are separate systems that don’t talk to each other. Responses might land in a customer service agent’s inbox, but the agents lack the context to know what prompted the reply, or even who they’re talking to.

On top of that, customers can’t be sure who the message is coming from. SMS notifications are often sent from a random number that can look suspicious and unprofessional.

The light at the end of the convo

While we patiently wait for RCS to replace SMS as the standard text messaging protocol (any minute now….), billions of people have migrated into richer messaging channels with better features.

Consumer chat apps are open for business, and their rich features make them better for businesses. WhatsApp, the definitive messaging app for users in India, South America, Europe and the Middle East, released their Business API in 2018, making it possible for enterprises to connect WhatsApp to their existing business software — thus becoming more accessible to 1.5 billion users.

Features like Verified Business Profiles add credibility. Customers know who the message is coming from, rather than spending time trying to figure out if a random string of numbers is the real deal.

Despite the fact that WhatsApp is now open for businesses (in early access), marketers who want to take advantage of its rich features need to proceed with caution. Businesses using the API through Smooch have the added benefit of using the technology we’ve built on top of it for better, more thoughtful customer experiences.

Notify me

To prevent misuse, WhatsApp approves messages created by brands who sign up through official WhatsApp Business Solution Providers like Smooch. When brands want to send outbound WhatsApp messages, they have to assure their customers have opted in, and submit a template to WhatsApp for approval. Approved messages can be sent and personalized with details like names and account information.

Smooch’s Notification API connects the system sending the notification to the business’ customer service platform of choice. This means customers won’t have to repeat themselves and agents will have the context they need to support and engage the customer.

Because the basis of WhatsApp is entirely conversational, businesses would be remiss to send out notifications without being ready to reply and continue the conversation.

Your donation is being processed

Milaap, India’s largest crowdfunding platform, works with Smooch as their WhatsApp Business Solution Provider. With Smooch, they’re able to chat with customers from their Verified Business Profile and send them outbound, conversation-starting notifications.

The vast majority — 95% — of Milaap’s customers are considered to be WhatsApp-first, meaning they spend most of their internet time on WhatsApp instead of inside mobile browsers or other apps. Clocking in at 400 million Indian users, it's estimated that nearly every smartphone owner uses WhatsApp. With Milaap, they can set up campaigns to raise money for medical and financial emergencies. The ability to forward messages in WhatsApp makes it easy to share campaigns through their networks.

A campaign that started on WhatsApp, for example, raised the $800 USD needed to help two-year-old Kohana Attru receive cochlear implants. Another WhatsApp campaign raised $37,000 USD from over 1200 supporters, in order to pay for a lung transplant.

When Milaap’s customers receive a notification about campaign updates, they can reply for more information. Smooch connects the system sending the notification with their customer engagement software — Zendesk Support — providing agents with the original context of the notification alongside other relevant conversational data.

Rather than intruding in a private, social space, Milaap empowers their customers to organize, build, and improve their communities through conversations.

If you're interested in building a custom conversational solution, or want to learn more about how businesses are using messaging to create better customer experiences, chat with us.