In my latest project, Sir – your wingman for thoughtful gifts, I used Whatsapp to validate our business idea with the B2C-part. Although we’re planning to build an app in a later phase, Whatsapp did just the trick.

The Idea

Sir is a smart gift-finder. Through some smart questions about the gift-receiver, we want to match the user (B2C) with the perfect gift. He/she can choose to pick it up in the store (the free part of our business model) or get it delivered straight to his door (paid).


To validate this idea in an early stage, we set up a launching page and moderated over 30 real purchases. I know this is not scalable but it was the fastest way to get real user feedback. In one week we managed to get an answer to the following questions:

    • Validate if people are willing to outsource a very personal thing, gifts, to an automated service.
    • Can we find a perfect/original gift for our users via 5-10 questions?
    • What kind of questions do we need to ask?
    • Are people willing to pay €5.95 for a gift delivered to their door?
    • Are people ok with only one really awesome gift-suggestion? Or do they still want to choose?
    • What are the top problems we’re solving with this concept?

Visual Mockup -vs- Working Prototype.

Testing real user behaviour can only be done via working prototypes. Especially in our fast moving online world it’s just too easy to sign-up on a launching page or “like” an idea. “Super Idea” or “I’m going to buy” is something different than purchasing the product or using it. Real working prototypes are the best filter to get to your real customers (the people you’re looking to get feedback from). But …. making a functional app-prototype (call it an MVP, …) takes time. Even if you restrict it to the core functionalities. That’s why (next to our visual mockup) we used WhatsApp from day one. Whatsapp has all the core functions for your next Wizard of Oz Experiment (manually faking what normally would be done by a computer system). It’s easy to use, available on all platforms (OS, Android, Windows, …) and makes the interaction where it will happen in the future: your user’s smartphone.​ScreenWhatsapp

– Our visual mockup vs our real prototype in Whatsapp –

Whatsapp has all the features for your next “Wizard of Oz Experiment”.

So let me formulate my top 5 WhatsApp features for business prototyping.

1. Let users “summon” your app

Most people have WhatsApp already installed on their phone. So no need for installing, great! If not, they’re maybe not in the user segment you’re looking for. For Sir, I just gave these people a mobile number, and the way how to summon our service: just say “Hey Sir” :)


2. Ask questions & share the “next screen”

In our case it mostly worked as followed:


As described above it was a mix of asking questions via text and sharing next “screens” as photo.

3. Let users share their location

If you’re doing home deliveries, or need people’s address it’s always a hassle via text. The “share your location” feature is a great solution to this small problem. During our experiment we even delivered a gift while one of our users was walking around in the city!


4. Do small interviews via the “record”-function

WhatsApp has also a record function: Voice Messaging. Great for doing small user interviews or asking feedback. I used this feature to receive a small 30s description of the gift receiver. Not all of my users were comfortable doing so :)


5. Do all above via WhatsApp Web

During my experiment, finally WhatsApp Web became available for iPhone users. This desktop browser-based interface of WhatsApp makes the business prototyping so much more easy.  No more need for importing images on your smartphone, easy multi-tasking between different users. Faster typing. Better overview on a bigger screen.

So, could you use WhatsApp to test your business ideas?
Which other tools & techniques do you like to use for business prototyping?

Looking forward hearing your thoughts on this! >> just leave a comment or get in touch via