WhatsApp offers a potential subscription journey for media companies

By Stephanie Lievano

Millicom, Tigo

Panama City, Panama


With a global pandemic and new rules for doing business, digital adaptation has accelerated.

The indisputable growth of online transactions is fueled by the desire to be safe. It’s a necessity-driven action. The transactional journey is one of the first subscriber experiences, and simplifying it continues to get less expensive and requires less development.

The penetration of e-commerce in Latin America (LATAM) was just beginning when COVID-19 hit. In Panama, there were few stores you could order from online, and Instagram shopping was still seen as an informal market. But now we are seeing the largest retailers, car dealerships, and banks switching their attention from social media channels to WhatsApp.

Use of WhatsApp in the purchasing process in selected countries in Latin America as of June 2020.
Use of WhatsApp in the purchasing process in selected countries in Latin America as of June 2020.

This isn’t contained to the LATAM market. According to a recent Facebook article: “Many of the old ways in which people and businesses communicate are not working. While businesses spend billions of dollars annually managing phone calls, e-mails, and SMS, people do not want to wait on hold, get passed from person to person, or wonder if their messages were received.”

The question for 2021 is what our subscription services would look like if acquired on WhatsApp. Is this an opportunity to connect with other generations? Is it simple enough to be an alternative solution to the Web sites and apps we’ve built over the years?

I don’t know the answer yet. However, the data shows transactions are happening as new features such as WhatsApp catalogs and Instagram shops facilitate purchases online.

So, what could a subscription journey look like on a messenger service? Would it follow the experience of texting for more milk when someone is at the grocery store?

Could it possibly look like the following exchange?

Client: Hi, I’d like to subscribe to have online access.

Company: Sure, we have a one-year offer that includes our monthly magazine for US$99. Would you be interested in this offer?

Client: Yes.

Company: Wonderful. You can make a payment following this link, and we’ll process your order. <LINK>
Welcome to our service. You’ll get an e-mail with instructions to set your password. Please share your feedback with us. What did you think about this process?

Or, would the process be structured more like a survey?

Company: Thanks for messaging. If you’re interested in subscribing, please type 1. If you want to speak to an agent, type 2.

Client: 1

Company: Thanks for your interest. We have digital plans and print plans. Please choose a number to indicate what you’re most interested in.
1: Digital access for $X a year
2: Print and digital bundle for $X a year for the city area

Client: 1

Company: Follow this link to complete your purchase by credit card. <LINK> For other payment options write the number 2.

Regardless of what the exchange looks like, the components are similar. They affirm interest, offer the product, and provide a way to complete the purchase. The potential opportunity is that the last several months have positioned WhatsApp as a place to acquire goods and services, with a low entry to develop and low entry to use. I’m eager to see how chats bridge the technology gap, and simply the process of gaining access to a new product or service.

About Stephanie Lievano

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