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Watford becomes UK’s first WhatsApp High Street
02 October 2020

Watford Borough Council has announced it is partnering with messaging service WhatsApp to create the UK’s first ‘WhatsApp High Street’ for local businesses.

The initiative will support small businesses in Watford to help them promote their businesses on the WhatsApp Business app, and help them to connect easily with their customers at this difficult time.

Watford Borough Council has worked with WhatsApp to get this first of its kind pilot off the ground. As part of the programme, experts from WhatsApp are providing training for an initial group of 12 local businesses on Market Street.

Training will remain open for any small businesses in Watford interested in the scheme.

WhatsApp Business acts as a shopfront for a company’s products and services, and helps businesses communicate with their customers during the challenges presented by COVID-19, such as managing social distancing in small premises, new opening hours, stock issues, table reservations or reduced menus.

The majority (82%) of larger SMEs (with 100-248 employees) have chosen to respond to the challenges by increasing their use of online tools during the pandemic. And almost half (48%) of the smallest companies (with 10 or less employees) have similarly increased their use of online tools over this period, perhaps as a result of a lack of resources.

When asked what type of help they needed for their business to function effectively during the pandemic, help with improving customer communication (37%) topped the list, followed closely by the need for improving digital skills (33%) and marketing assistance (30%).

Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, said: “It’s great to see small businesses using innovative digital tools like WhatsApp Business to help them adjust how they engage with their customers. We are always keen to encourage innovative partnerships to help grow local economies, and this collaboration between WhatsApp and Watford Borough Council is a fantastic way of combining innovation, digital skills and supporting small businesses.”

Dan Lenan, WhatsApp Partnerships Manager, added: “Whether it’s helping a retailer fulfil online orders, a restaurant to become a take away, or a beauty salon to communicate social distancing rules, the WhatsApp Business App can help people steer their business through these difficult times. We are very happy to partner with Watford to support their business community and to show that digital tools can support their recovery.”

Key features of the WhatsApp Business App include:

  1. Business profile: a profile that is unique to the business and separate from a personal WhatsApp account.
  2. Catalogue: A gallery of hero products and services available to customers. These can be shared as a link within WhatsApp or on external platforms 
  3. ‘Quick replies’ and automated messages: Save time by using templated quick replies to frequently asked questions, such as opening hours, prices, and directions.
  4. Labels: to organise messages from customers by category
  5. QR codes: making starting a chat with a business as quick and easy as possible 
  6. Stickers: a range of business-related stickers that help communicate with customers.

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