Live chat or WhatsApp?

That an increasing number of people are chatting is a given, but which medium is the best? WhatsApp continues to grow, but providing live chat on their websites is starting to pay off for an increasing number companies. So, if you have to make the choice, is it better to opt for live chat or WhatsApp? To make this choice easier for you, we have compared the two media on several important points: the capacity to proactively approach customers, cost, lead generation, conversation history, waiting times, mobile versus desktop (and switching between them), sending automated messages and data collection. 

WhatsApp and live chat are both in real time, which means customers talk directly to an employee. This means both are fast and can be used to immediately assist people with their specific problems. And you don’t have to search for customers via these channels; they come to you. This means both communication modes save you time. Despite their similarity in this regard, there are differences between the two options, and it is up to your company to decide which features are the most desirable.


The number of WhatsApp users is growing. In February 2016, the number of active users was already at a billion. That’s a lot. The application is literally in your back pocket, and you easily take it wherever you go. The number of websites that are optimised to make live chat on mobile devices possible is limited. Here, WhatsApp wins; it is more mobile.


Live chat is primarily focused on the computer experience, but nowadays, we can also use WhatsApp on our laptops or desktop computers. In this area, the two competitors score the same.

Switching between a mobile device and a computer

WhatsApp is synchronised between your mobile and your computer. That’s useful if you’re on the road or would like to take up the call at another location. Live chat doesn’t have this option, and, even if a company would support this, you would have to open a new chat on your mobile device and close the first one. Here, WhatsApp wins.

Proactively approaching customers

With live chat, people are already on your website, and all you have to do is engage them in conversation. If you don’t make use of live chat, but you do use WhatsApp, proactively approaching your customers becomes more difficult, since you don’t have a telephone number at your disposal and you don’t know when which customers are browsing your website. People appreciate a proactive attitude from companies if they’re experiencing difficulties with something or are looking for certain information. A proactive attitude increases your reliability, generates a sense of trustworthiness and creates a positive image for your company, making your website a place where people want to return. The points go to live chat on this one.

Generating leads

If you handle proactive chatting well, it can increase your revenue. Live chat can be used to help people who do not necessarily have a problem, but are simply looking at the products on your website. You can talk to these people, assist them, and maybe even stimulate them to purchase. With this, live chat can generate more “immediate” money.

Automated messages

Here, live chat scores higher. With WhatsApp, sending automated messages is very difficult, because the app purposely stops them. The app is free and predominantly intended as a social medium and not as a way for companies to communicate with customers. Since WhatsApp strongly opposes advertisement on the app, they also prevent users from using it for such purposes. But, with the chat software that you use, you can do whatever you want in this area. However, it is important not to send too many messages, and, if visitors don’t respond, it indicates they don’t want to chat. This makes sending more messages unnecessary.

Gathering information

Live chat allows for the collection of data. You can tell, for example, whether somebody has chatted with you before based on their IP address. By linking this information to the customer’s user account, you immediately have information, such as the customer’s name and ordering information, at your disposal. With WhatsApp, you have to manually search for this information, which takes longer. This makes live chat better in this regard.

Waiting times

Here, we can say that live chat and WhatsApp score the same, because the waiting times are the same. Both channels use chat and, therefore, are dealt with by the same team. A draw again.


WhatsApp is now free to use for everybody. Live chat, on the other hand, requires software. WhatsApp has the advantage here; it doesn’t cost anything to use.

Conversation history

With live chat, the window is closed after the conversation has ended, after which it is removed. Although the conversation is saved in the chat software, it can no longer be viewed by the customer. The chat operator can still search for it, but must do so manually. WhatsApp saves conversations in the app, also storing them on customers’ phones. This allows for the conversation to be resumed a minute, an hour or a day later, while live chat would require an entirely new chat session. Here, WhatsApp has the advantage, because a conversation does not necessarily need to be completed on the spot and, if you’re on your way home from work, you can easily continue chatting in the train.

In conclusion, we can say that both mediums score about as high, but have different strong points.

WhatsApp wins in the following areas:

  1. Mobile experience
  2. Cost
  3. Conversation history
  4. Switching between devices

Live chat wins in these areas:

  1. Proactively approaching customers
  2. Generating leads
  3. Gathering information
  4. Automated messages

So, is it better to choose WhatsApp or live chat for your website? That’s hard to say, since it depends on which of the above are most important to your company. If your target audience spends a lot of time travelling, has questions that require more time to investigate and you would like to keep costs as low as possible, WhatsApp might be the better choice for you. But, if you would like visits to your website to become leads, gather background information regarding your visitors, proactively approach your customers, and, it is important that conversation histories remain in the chat, live chat is the more obvious choice.

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