By Maxine Hess
Writer | WhatsApp marketer | Creative
Posted: December 19, 2023
Updated: February 22, 2024
What are the best WhatsApp marketing tools for medium-large brands? How do you choose the right one? What features are essential and what should you look for in a WhatsApp partner? See our beginner's guide.
WhatsApp Business is growing in Europe at a rapid rate. With 2 billion global users, 90% open rates and incredible retention potential, it's no surprise that in 2019, WhatsApp added a business offering to the previously consumer-only app.
Number of WhatsApp users worldwide interacting via WhatsApp Business in 2022, by region
In Brazil, India and Indonesia, WhatsApp Business is part of life. So much so that WhatsApp has extended its functionality – you can now buy directly in the app and search a WhatsApp Business directory.
In Europe, WhatsApp for businesses is not as yet as well known. But as brands catch on to its benefits, with a consistent upwards trend in use every year, this is set to change – we expect 2024 to be a big year for WhatsApp Business in Germany, Italy, the UK and beyond.
For brands who want to stand out from the competition, this empty blue ocean is likely to fill up and turn red in 2024. Which makes now the time to get a WhatsApp marketing tool and get started.
What's a WhatsApp marketing tool?
A WhatsApp marketing tool is a software platform that businesses use to connect with customers on WhatsApp. In particular, they're designed to send promotional WhatsApp messages to customers, make sales and track responses.
These software tools offer a user interface with rich functionality drawn from the WhatsApp API including:
- WhatsApp automation (see charles' Journeys)
- Bulk WhatsApp marketing message broadcasts (see Campaigns)
- Customer chat on desktop interface (see Conversations)
- Audience building, segmentation and tag storing
- Integrations with other software (including Klaviyo and others)
- Analytics to track customers and measure and improve performance (see WhatsApp metrics here)
Why not go to WhatsApp Business directly?
WhatsApp created the functionality for this through the WhatsApp API (now WhatsApp Business Platform). However it didn't build a user interface. Instead, it opened up its API and partnered with software companies and official WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSPs) like charles.
Unless you build a WhatsApp platform and user interface in-house (costly and often lacking the right expertise), you will need to partner with a WhatsApp BSP that offers specialized WhatsApp software tools.
So while WhatsApp Business has created the technology in the background, a WhatsApp marketing tool packages it up in a way that brands can actually use straight off the shelf.
Who uses WhatsApp marketing tools?
Medium to large businesses use a WhatsApp marketing tool to manage a WhatsApp channel. The tool provides the bridge between the WhatsApp API and businesses, in the form of a user interface.
This brings the WhatsApp Business functionality to people's desktop, enables multiple users, analytics, unlimited messages, billing and much more.
To get these tools, businesses pay a WhatsApp BSP (like charles) a monthly fee, plus an additional fee per WhatsApp conversation.
Unless you're a small business owner
Small businesses don't need special WhatsApp software or tools. They can use the free WhatsApp Business app.
Once they reach an audience of more than 256 people, however, they will need to buy a WhatsApp marketing tool.
It is possible to continue using the free app with a bigger audience than this, but it gets very complex. Our customer, Duschbrocken had 10,000 customers in WhatsApp and was sending WhatsApp newsletters to them in blocks of 250 people using a spreadsheet. Eventually they decided to come to charles because it was taking so much time and effort it had become costly and unfeasible.
In other words, the free WhatsApp Business app doesn't scale.
We'd highly recommend that once you hit this size, you get a WhatsApp marketing tool or software as early as possible so that you start with the right foundations.
The charles platform and Success team is set up to maximize ROI, so you can be sure that the revenue you will earn will far outweight the extra costs of a platform from the outset.
5 things to look for in a WhatsApp marketing tool (that aren't software features)
The WhatsApp software you choose is undoubtedly extremely important.
However many brands forget that there are other basics you need in place before you start looking into the technical features of the tool. These are our top 5 to ensure long-term success:
1. World-class WhatsApp Success team
The support you get from your software partner's Success team is going to make or break your WhatsApp marketing efforts.
In WhatsApp, never underestimate the power of knowledge and expertise. As a relatively new marketing channel, you're going to need all the insights you can get. Your software company should offer:
- Excellent onboarding and training
- Ongoing success meetings
- Regular creative campaign ideas
- Knowledge-sharing from other brands in their portfolio
- Insights into how to understand analytics
- Ideas for optimizing your campaigns for increased performance
Choose a Success team that offers great initial training as well as ongoing advice – particularly to boost performance during key sales events like Black Friday
At charles, we're proud to have one of the best Success teams in the business, with 4 years of experience to draw from now, and playbooks, best practices and creative ideas they regularly share with customers.
2. GDPR-compliance (EU based is best)
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is European legislation that requires EU companies to take certain steps to protect customer information and treat it in the right way.
These days, to ensure you're seen as trustworthy by customers, it's best practice to adhere to GDPR as a brand, wherever in the world you're based. GDPR is the global gold standard of data privacy.
What should you look for?
Any WhatsApp marketing tool and partner should be able to help you stay GDPR compliant. This includes through advice from the Success team and software features to keep you GDPR compliant.
An example of a GDPR-compliant double-option on WhatsApp,
from our customer Kapten & Son
For example: ensuring you get a double opt-in every time you ask for permission to communicate with someone, a global unsubscribe option on every WhatsApp message and the ability to easily delete a customer's details.
To be on the safe side, we strongly recommend choosing a WhatsApp partner based in the EU. Because charles was born in Berlin, Germany, GDPR is built into the foundations of our platform and Success team. Our servers are based in Frankfurt, which ensures data is held in a GDPR-compliant way (as opposed to the US, which can be problematic).
3. Official Meta and WhatsApp Partner
When you're entrusting a software company with customer conversations and data, you need to be certain you can trust them. One way to be sure is to only choose an Official Meta Partner and WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP).
Look for this badge from your WhatsApp marketing tool (which charles has of course)
These companies (like charles) have been vetted by Meta and WhatsApp and approved to use the WhatsApp Business API, build software on top and partner with other businesses.
4. Company and software stability
WhatsApp Business is growing fast in Europe. As a huge opportunity for brands, it's also an opportunity for ambitious software entrepreneurs – not all of them conscientious.
Many WhatsApp marketing tools are brand new on the market and looking to ride the conversational commerce wave and make fast money, not always in ways that are good for every business.
and Artjem Weissbeck (Kapten & Son founder)
While these small startups may offer amazing features and promise incredible things, you need to look beyond the sales pitch to real credentials. Things like:
- How long as the company existed? (charles has been here since 2019)
- Who are the founders? (our founders are ex-McKinsey digital eCommerce Lead and Kapten & Son founder)
- What customers does it have? (charles is trusted by ABOUT YOU, WWF and more)
- Is it ISO certified? (charles has acquired its ISO 27001 certification)
- What reviews does it have? (charles has a rating of 4.8/5 on G2)
- What other recognition has it received? (charles was one of LinkedIn's Top Startups 2023, Sifted's Rising 100 2023 and Wired's Top Startups 2021)
Check your software partner has ISO 27001 certification – a signal of a mature, reputable provider
5. A focus on maximizing return
After 4 years doing WhatsApp marketing for our customers, one thing we've learned is:
ROI should be the number 1 priority
for success with WhatsApp
That's why maximizing profitability lies at the heart of our strategy – both in building our WhatsApp marketing tools and our Success team's offering.
Of course WhatsApp brings many softer, unmeasurable KPIs, like beautiful conversations, stronger relationships, brand enhancement and personalization.
But WhatsApp comes with extra costs per conversation to WhatsApp (whereas email is free to send). This means it has to pay its way. We're proud to be one of the only providers with true business acumen built in. Our core focus is making a return on every conversation you have with a customer.
RPC is the north star of everything we do at charles. Every conversation should have a value – and it does, with the average RPC across our customers of €2
So much so that we can say that on average, our customers make a return per conversation (RPC) of €2 on average, and a return on campaign spend (ROCS) of 8-10x on average.
5 features to look for in a WhatsApp marketing tool
Now let's dive into the technical aspects of WhatsApp software.
What are the essential features you need in your WhatsApp marketing tool?
Of course the need for features will differ across different businesses, but for our core market of marketing and CRM teams at global brands, we'd recommend your WhatsApp marketing tool includes:
1. Advanced WhatsApp marketing automation
Automation has become charles' killer WhatsApp feature over the years. Whereas many providers focus on holding customer service conversations on WhatsApp, we've moved towards an automation model. Specifically, the core of our WhatsApp tool is Journeys: an open canvas on which it's easy to "draw" automated WhatsApp conversations.
Because marketing teams don't have time to answer customer conversations. Automation saves time and effort, ensures brand consistency and provides rich analytics. We call it the "always-on revenue machine."
Once set up, your automated WhatsApp flows will run in the background earning you money. For example:
- Automated, interactive product finders
- Order tracking opt-ins from the website
- Fully automated marketing campaigns like competitions, quizzes and discounts
charles Journeys WhatsApp automation feature is the heart of our WhatsApp marketing platform and much-loved by our customers
Features within WhatsApp automation to look for include:
- Time delays to send messages over a period of seconds, hours and even months
- Conditional nodes, so you can further split audiences within a flow
- Integration with other CRM tools like Klaviyo and shop tools like Shopify
- Checks before publishing to ensure it's GDPR compliant
2. Fine WhatsApp segmentation
In WhatsApp, relevance is key. Customers might put up with generic content in email, but not in WhatsApp. The key to relevance? Personalization and segmentation.
How to do segmentation?
You need a WhatsApp platform with a tool like "Audience Builder" from charles. This helps you create lists of audiences for each campaign you send out. Within that, you can further personalize, for example with first name, favorite color (if you've already found this out) and pet name.
Integrations with your shop system and email CRM is also important, so you can import customer information you already have, like last product bought, email opened and VIP status.
The higher the relevance, the more likely it is that customers will feel heard, the more likely it is they'll respond to your campaigns and the higher the performance of your campaign.
A peek at charles' Audience Builder tool that customers use to segment their WhatsApp audiences
3. Rich WhatsApp-specific analytics
"You can't manage what you can't measure." A common marketing saying, and never more true than in WhatsApp.
Your WhatsApp marketing tool should give you clear visibility of the results of each marketing campaign, including RPC, ROCS, open rate, click-through rate and total revenue.
It should also enable A/B testing so you can find out what works for your audience before rolling out your entire campaign.
Your WhatsApp marketing tool should show you key results from every marketing campaign so you can attribute revenue, report to management and continue improving performance
4. Widgets to build your WhatsApp subscribers
Your WhatsApp marketing channel is never going to gain momentum without tools to increase your subscriber base.
Customers like Pferdegold use widgets like website popups – gaining higher traction if they theme them around certain events like Christmas
Your WhatsApp marketing tool should include:
- Customizable website popups that bring people into WhatsApp
- Website bubbles constantly visible that bring people to WhatsApp
- Widgets on certain pages, for example offering order tracking on your thank you page or back-in-stock notifications on out-of-stock product description pages (PDPs)
- The ability to turn them on or off on desktop or mobile – many of our customers drive subscribers to email on desktop and WhatsApp on mobile, for a more intuitive journey
- Email CRM integration to help you bring people from email into WhatsApp.
In the charles platform, we call them "Chat-ins."
The ability to easily add and customize website widgets to build WhatsApp subscribers is an essential part of any WhatsApp marketing tool, like this website popup in our Chat-ins feature
In addition, your Success team can advise on how to use other social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to bring followers into WhatsApp.
Our clients love getting creative to bring customers from Instagram to WhatsApp,
like this recent Insta competition from vegan pet food maker, noms+
Your WhatsApp service provider should also help you set up "click-to-chat" ads.
5. Shop and CRM integrations with WhatsApp
You've already worked hard to build your shop system and CRM tools, as well as build your customer information database. Make sure you can keep using all this.
Choose a WhatsApp marketing tool that offers integration with leading eCommerce and CRM software, for example Shopify and Klaviyo.
This year we integrated WhatsApp with Klaviyo so our brands using both tools could create better smoother, more profitable journeys for their customers
In charles, thanks to your Shopify integration, you can send "Chatouts" during a conversation. These are links to prefilled carts so customers can buy products in as little as one click (if they're already logged in).
Shop system integration with WhatsApp – for example with Shopify – is essential to collect and use customer data in the right way, and boost sales with more personalized experiences
The easier you can make the shopping experience, and the fewer the obstacles between the customer and a sale, the better.
5 WhatsApp marketing tools for European brands
WhatsApp Business is relatively new in Europe, but there are some key players emerging that are worth looking at when choosing a WhatsApp marketing platform.
Here are 5 to keep in mind that would suit mid-large businesses looking to scale:
1. charles: the WhatsApp platform built for ROI
- Leading, passionate, well reviewed Success team
- Laser focus on WhatsApp
- EU based and GDPR built in to product
- Focus on maximizing revenue (we're not the cheapest platform but we ensure a profit)
- Reputable founding team and well funded
- Integrations with Klaviyo, Shopify and more plus custom integrations
- Official Meta Partner and WhatsApp Business Solution Provider
- Regular creative ideas for campaigns through our in-house agency, Studios
- Many success cases to draw from
2. Sinch Engage: all-in-one platform for service
Sinch Engage (formerly MessengerPeople) was one of the first WhatsApp marketing tools on the market in Europe. This has made it quite successful.
However, it was built principally on the service use case of WhatsApp. While this is important for businesses, it's not the most profitable use case of WhatsApp. The marketing features of SinchEngage come short when compared with charles. It also doesn't offer the depth of support from the Success team that charles does.
3. UserLike: live chat done very well
UserLike is a quality product, also made in Germany, but is focused on live chat. This service use case, as mentioned, is important, but it comes with a significant amount of effort and resource.
Customers are highly demanding in live chat and expect the right answers quickly – especially in WhatsApp. Get it wrong and you risk losing your brand reputation. While UserLike does use chatbots, this needs some management to ensure happy customers.
The marketing use case of WhatsApp, which charles is focused on, is where brands earn the most revenue, sales and profit.
4. Trengo: all channels together
Trengo is a decent alternative to charles but doesn't offer the level of customer support you need to ensure success. Our automation tool, Journeys, offers a more intuitive, easy-to-use interface, as a well-built-out open canvas tool, compared to Trengo's simple decision-tree builder “Flowbot.” It also doesn't specialize in WhatsApp, but covers all messenger platforms. This means Trengo lacks some important features for the world's most popular messaging app, like link tracking and easy segmentation.
5. Superchat: do it all in one
Superchat is another WhatsApp platform built on a service use case. This means marketing features aren't as advanced as they are in the charles platform. We allow for higher volume of sendouts, more sophisticated segmentation and commerce options. Superchat is also a "universal inbox" so lacks the WhatsApp focus and expertise.
Low budget WhatsApp marketing tool alternatives to charles
There are some relatively new WhatsApp marketing tools on the market that are seemingly inexpensive.
Bear in mind that saving costs in this way could come with a risk – and even greater costs in the long run. Some low-budget software options may be inexperienced in WhatsApp (and unable to offer you the right support), not focused on making profit and add extra hidden costs after you've signed up to the subscription. The functionality may also be limited.
Here are a few that we've come across:
- Mateo: "The Omnichannel CX Software" (Germany)
- Zoko: "Making ecommerce on WhatsApp easy!" (US and India)
- Chatarmin: "WhatsApp Marketing Tool for your Business" (Austria)
- Spoki: "The ideal solution for · Marketing · Notifications · Sale · Customer Support" (Italy)
Want to see more WhatsApp tools?
There are many more out there to choose from. As recommended, choose an official WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP), ideally focused on profit and based in your region.
As an Official Meta Partner you'll find charles in the Meta directory
To sum up: choose the best WhatsApp marketing tool for greater success
The work you do to research a WhatsApp marketing tool is going to ensure your future, long-term success in this exciting marketing channel.
Look for a WhatsApp BSP and Meta partner that's stable, reputable, EU-based, ROI-focused and that will continually share expertise.
Look for a WhatsApp marketing platform that offers rich features like automation, segmentation, Shopify and Klaviyo integration and detailed analytics.
As a leading EU-based WhatsApp marketing platform with a focus on ROI, WhatsApp, and a passionate customer Success team, charles is the partner of choice for many enterprise brands in Europe, in particular the DACH region – including MediaMarkt, WWF and l'Occitane.
Wondering which WhatsApp marketing tool is right for your business? Just give us a shout. If you like, we'll give you a free demo on a quick call with the sales team.
FAQs about WhatsApp marketing tools
What's a WhatsApp marketing tool?
A WhatsApp marketing tool is a software platform that enables businesses to send promotional messages to customers on WhatsApp at scale.
As opposed to the free WhatsApp Business app for small business owners, a WhatsApp marketing tool is built on the WhatsApp Business API and is designed for mid- to large-sized companies needing scalability, tracking, segmentation and multi-agent use of WhatsApp.
For this, businesses need to pay a subscription for the WhatsApp marketing tool, plus a cost per conversation to WhatsApp and an additional fee to the WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP – software company).
Do I need a WhatsApp marketing tool?
If you're a growing business looking to send promotional WhatsApp messages and WhatsApp newsletters to over 256 customers at a time, then yes, you need a WhatsApp marketing tool.
The free WhatsApp Business app offers limited functionality for mid- to large-sized businesses. It's limited to 1-2 phones and doesn't offer rich tracking or marketing features.
However, as yet, WhatsApp Business is more of a retention than an acquisition tool, so we recommend that you have a good number of website visitors and email addresses you can convert to WhatsApp before investing in specialized software.
What are the best WhatsApp marketing tools?
The best WhatsApp marketing tools for your business will depend on your business goals. If you're a mid-sized to enterprise brand looking to reach customers where their friends are, with a platform that scales, while making as much profit as possible, charles is a good choice. Especially if you're in the DACH region (we're based in Berlin) or Italy or the UK (our other core markets).
If you're looking for a cheaper, off-the-shelf platform (with less customer support), you could try 360Dialog. SinchEngage is another good option in the DACH region. While its customer service functionality is very developed, its marketing features are lacking. But it offers many different messenger integrations.
What features should I look for in a WhatsApp marketing tool?
Look for an easy-to-use interface, a great success team, unlimited numbers of agents and stability in company and the WhatsApp marketing tool itself. Specific features you should look for are:
- Advanced WhatsApp conversation automation
- Fine segmentation and audience building
- Rich analytics (to include revenue per conversation, open rate and click-through-rate)
- Strong integrations with leading CRM, messenger, shop and email tools like Klaviyo, Shopify and Facebook
- Features to build WhatsApp subscribers that are easy to set up and can be automated and customized to your brand (like website popups and thank you page widgets)