Retail may be bouncing back in many places, but brick-and-mortar stores have a hot channel to compete with — WhatsApp. Fortunately, that might not be a bad thing. Loss of foot traffic has traditionally been especially difficult for small businesses, but a wave of new tech is changing that.
For starters, we recently wrote about startups changing the way you pay
including Per Diem
’s tools to help local SMBs like coffee shops. We also shared the Rare Things
launch, an eCommerce site featuring world-class artisans with TikTok-esque snippets.
Then there’s messaging apps. Nait Jones of a16z told us in April about Pamper Nail Gallery
, which built much of its business through hustle and messaging before joining the TxO accelerator
. Apps like WhatsApp have become an (arguably unlikely) essential sales channel for small businesses in a grassroots way.Chat
: On one side of this space, we’re seeing tools that enable “conversational messaging” for businesses. That’s a fancy way of saying bots make users feel like they’re having personal, one-to-one conversations. Today Botsify launched a no-code WhatsApp Chatbot
. This follows similar recent launches from Landbot 3.0
, and WATI
. These tools enable businesses to automate and scale their conversations with limited technical expertise.Convert:
Beyond chats, the browsing and payment experience is heating up — especially in India. Facebook has been working to meet demand. It rolled out Carts in WhatsApp
in December, following a Catalog feature a year earlier for shoppers to see a business’s offering and request items. Beyond that though, most businesses and shoppers are left to exchange payment elsewhere. WhatsApp launched person-to-person payments in India and Brazil, but progress has been slow.
While Facebook deals with government regulations across countries, startups are offering solutions. BusinessOnBot
, a recent YC alumn, recently launched its product enabling WhatsApp storefront ordering in India. Gupshup
, a company with a 15 year presence in India made a partial-pivot into this space with a $100 million fundraise from Tiger Gobal. Meanwhile in Europe, Berlin-based Charles
raised a €6.4 million seed round for its “conversational commerce” SaaS.
The bottom line: if you're an SMB, you're getting options.