By Maxine Hess
Writer | WhatsApp marketer | Creative
Updated on September 29, 2023
WhatsApp is the powerful new marketing channel taking European eCommerce brands and CRM teams by storm. The big question is: will it replace your email marketing?
It's hard to believe for some – looking at you Gen Z – but email was once a very big deal. Hailed as a "killer application," it transformed businesses and lives.
Everything you need to know about "How to send an email" (in 1984)
With the arrival of email, marketers suddenly had an incredible tool at their fingertips. They could message thousands of people for free. No stamps, no printers, no time delay. They didn't need to spend much on design.
As email software tools like Klaviyo and Mailchimp appeared, email marketing became even more sophisticated, efficient and revenue generating. Marketers could choose audiences, analyze shopping behavior send more targeted emails, automate processes and more.
Then came the "email is dead" articles
In 2015, an article by Inc. declared the email era was over and predicted "a new communication channel will replace email by 2020."
Some consumers lost their love for email and started messaging each other on apps like WhatsApp instead. No need for subject lines or formalities. Less spam. As life became more informal, people wanted easier, quicker communication channels.
Email started to gain a reputation as old-fashioned and brands started to wonder if it was worth investing in email at all. Especially as social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok took a growing share of people's attention.
Then came WhatsApp Business
In 2018, WhatsApp Business arrived. WhatsApp (through its parent company, Meta) opened up its hugely popular consumer app to businesses so they could connect with the 2 billion people already engaged in this messaging app.
Many businesses (including us) predicted this new "killer app" for marketers to be the death of email.
With 88% of users open to engaging with brands via WhatsApp, it's a goldmine for businesses that seize the opportunity. And it's already working very well in key WhatsApp Business markets like Brazil and India.
The demise of email marketing – fact or fiction?
So now 2020 has come and gone, and new channels have appeared, did email die?
Email is a hardy channel. Even with some wobbly moments, and the birth of many exciting communication methods, it has always bounced back.
Junk folders have improved, functionality has been added, drunk emailing has been solved. As content gets ever shorter and more distracting, many are beginning to appreciate the "slowness" of email.
Email is still used by marketers successfully for long-form content, product launches, regular news updates, customer relationship marketing (CRM) and more.
And the stats remain impressive:
- 81% of SMBs still call email as their primary customer acquisition channel
- 87% of B2B marketers say email is one of their top free organic distribution channels.
Granted, email may not get the engagement and reach it used to, but it's still a steady source of income for eCommerce businesses.
Email vs. WhatsApp: the battle is on...?
In one corner, the tried-and-true veteran, email marketing. In the other, the agile newcomer, WhatsApp marketing.
Marketing departments today are faced with a choice: to invest in the classic power of email or be tempted by the allure of WhatsApp.
Let’s dive into this epic marketing showdown and uncover the strategies that set brands apart.
Email and WhatsApp marketing compared
First, let's look at how the two marketing channels compare with each other:
|WhatsApp marketing||Email marketing|
|Cost||Free for app, cost per conversation to send from WhatsApp Business Platform (plus software provider fee)||Free to send (plus software provider fee)|
|Consumer use||Most popular messaging app in the world with 2 billions monthly users (source: Statista)||4 billion daily users (source: Hubspot)|
(source: Campaign Monitor)
|Security||End-to-end encryption||Password protected|
|Attachments||Many multimedia attachments allowed: voice messages, images, videos||Images, gifs. Video lowers user experience. Voice messages not used widely in emails.|
|Formatting||Bold, italics, strikethrough or monospace, bullets||Wide formatting possibilities|
|Interactive functionality||Can add poll, 2x buttons, list, drop-down menu||Limited interaction: click on link, reply to email|
It's clear that both email and WhatsApp marketing have their advantages and disadvantages.
So who wins: email or WhatsApp?
After 4 years of working with eCommerce brands like ABOUT YOU, WWF and SNOCKS, we've found that the best channel is: both.
Email and WhatsApp marketing should work together, not alone, for the best results
charles founder, Artjem Weissbeck, explains: "Like any new software company, we were founded to disrupt markets. When we started out, we thought this meant replacing email entirely. Now we think differently. Our clients are finding that 1+1 = 3.
"Alone, email and WhatsApp are great. Together, they're even better. In fact, by combining WhatsApp and email, our clients are seeing an incredible CLV surge of 25% compared to a single-channel approach."
The power of unity: how email and WhatsApp marketing work together
Imagine combining the extensive reach of email with the immediacy of WhatsApp – a power duo that reignites your marketing strategies.
Working hand in hand, these channels amplify each other’s strengths, nurturing deeper connections with customers.
That's why in September 2023, we announced our partnership with leading marketing automation platform, Klaviyo. Our clients wanted to work with email and Klaviyo's clients wanted to work with WhatsApp.
And so the new email x WhatsApp power couple of charles x Klaviyo was born.
At DMEXCO 2023, we announced our partnership with leading marketing automation platform, Klaviyo – supercharging CRM teams with the combined power of both marketing channels
Crafting the perfect message: email vs. WhatsApp
Writing compelling content is an art, whether it's an email or a WhatsApp message.
Email’s larger canvas allows for detailed storytelling, while WhatsApp’s concise nature demands messages that pack a punch.
For emails, nail that subject line, keep paragraphs concise, and conclude with a clear CTA.
WhatsApp lives on authenticity – personalized messages with a friendly tone work best. Use personalization details like name and favorite color.
In emails, an emoji in the subject line can grab attention. Add 1 or 2 in the body for emphasis or to lift the tone (if it's on brand). In WhatsApp you can get away with more emojis, but don't overdo it or you will start to look childish. In both cases, use them smartly and naturally but sparingly.
How email and WhatsApp complement each other
In fact, email doesn't fight WhatsApp, it works together with it in many ways:
Most used medium
Higher opening rates
Ingrained in daily habits
Years of customer data
Interactive formats (for more data)
So it's more email and WhatsApp than email vs WhatsApp
Turns out, the epic battle between email and WhatsApp, isn't actually a battle: it's a love story.
WhatsApp and email marketing are partners (like charles and Klaviyo), not rivals.
The learning you should take away is to keep investing in your email campaigns, but make sure you don't miss out on the WhatsApp Business wave.
This will take a little investment, but with official WhatsApp Business Solution Providers like charles, costs remain reasonable. Plus, we make your revenue and return a priority in our software and product, so you can expect ROI (return on campaign spend) of 6-8 times on average.
Are you ready to seize the power of unity and reshape your marketing journey? Talk to us about how to combine WhatsApp and email marketing – a match made in marketing heaven.
FAQs about email vs. WhatsApp marketing
What's WhatsApp marketing?
WhatsApp marketing is a new type of marketing in which businesses use WhatsApp Business for promotional purposes. They send marketing messages to customers through the WhatsApp Business messenger service. These marketing messages could be discounts, competitions, product launches or even surveys.
A WhatsApp marketing channel typically sits beside (increasingly, ahead of) email marketing and may replace an SMS marketing channel entirely (more in Europe than the US where WhatsApp is more popular).
You may hear other terms used for WhatsApp marketing, including:
- WhatsApp campaigns
- WhatsApp promotional messages
- WhatsApp advertising
- Conversational marketing
- Chat marketing
- Social marketing
In the DACH region (Germany (D), Austria (A) and Switzerland (CH)), WhatsApp marketing messages are often called “WhatsApp newsletters.”
Which is better, email or WhatsApp marketing?
As described in the article above, there is no "better." Email marketing and WhatsApp marketing should complement each other to bring extra revenue to eCommerce brands.
Email is best for long-form content and regular newsletters – often at a high frequency. WhatsApp is best for pre-access, exclusive offers and short-form, fun content – at a low frequency.
Will email replace WhatsApp marketing?
No, WhatsApp won't replace email. While WhatsApp marketing is growing fast in Europe, and proving very successful. Email still has its place in a CRM marketing strategy. The most successful marketing strategy is an omnichannel one, combining email and WhatsApp communications.
Can you automate WhatsApp marketing like you can email marketing?
Yes, with tools like "Journeys" from charles, you can automate all the same processes you use for email marketing and CRM. Plus you can add more interaction and collect more information about your customers this way. WhatsApp is a channel that's easy to add to your marketing mix and can easily run in the background generating you revenue – welcome flows, marketing campaigns, repurchase flows, product finders and more.
Do I need to write WhatsApp marketing messages differently to email marketing messages?
Yes, WhatsApp marketing messages should be written slightly differently to email marketing messages. WhatsApp messages should be shorter, snappier and more personal – using the information you've gathered about your customers, either on WhatsApp or in your email or online shop tools. However, you should always maintain your brand voice in every marketing channel. You just may get a bit more conversational in WhatsApp, and use a few emojis and chatty language – after all, that's what people are used to on WhatsApp and you will then come across more as a friend than an faceless brand.
Consider giving your WhatsApp channel a face and name so it appears to be coming from a person rather than a logo.
As this is a newish channel for many businesses, it's worth doing as much testing as you can, especially in your first campaigns and flows, to see what customers respond best to – frequency, wording, header/no header, videos, attachments, buttons, images/no images and so on.
When buying WhatsApp software. make sure you look for a solution provider (like charles) that offers A/B testing functionality.
Can I make my WhatsApp marketing GDPR compliant like I can with email marketing?
Yes, you can make your WhatsApp marketing GDPR compliant. You need to make sure you get proper consent (double opt-ins) and store and manage data in the right way.
To stay on the safe side, make sure you choose a WhatsApp software provider based in Europe with data storage in the EU and solid GDPR knowledge and experience. We can advise you more on this. For now, here's more on WhatsApp and GDPR.
Should I keep investing in email marketing?
Yes, you should still maintain your email CRM channel. But to make more from this channel, combine it with WhatsApp. Both have their different uses, but together they will earn eCommerce brands more revenue.