WhatsApp has announced what many deemed impossible once, a dedicated business app for companies and enterprises. Though in a pilot stage, WhatsApp aims to bring businesses closer to their consumers with the instant messaging platform. This move from the company brings a direct opportunity for them to easily monetise the platform, something which it has always shied away from. Before getting acquired by Facebook, WhatsApp was pretty much against selling ads on its messenger and went on to say that “advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought,” and that when companies take up advertising “you the user are the product.”
Bringing businesses to WhatsApp isn’t a new move and something that hasn’t been done before. Instead, this was a long time coming for the instant messenger after we saw Facebook dip into the ad business. Of course, connecting a business to potential consumers isn’t such a bad deal but it is still in the air as to how WhatsApp implements the feature. In India, many small and local businesses already utilise the power that WhatsApp commands and reach out to users. People place orders over a WhatsApp message, pay through a third party gateway or if it is a local business, they pay on the delivery. At the end of the day, every transaction works over trust. WhatsApp Business app will eliminate this issue with a verified business profile so that a user knows that they are communicating directly with a business.
“We’re building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks,” WhatsApp wrote in a blog post.
According to the company, businesses will be able to interact with their users and give them notifications such as timings of the flight, delivery confirmations and reminders. While WhatsApp will make its business app free for small and medium businesses, the company’s COO Matt Idema told this to the Wall Street Journal that they “do intend on charging businesses in the future.” So, we can expect them to charge businesses like airlines and e-commerce portals for reaching to prospective buyers. They can even introduce packages for businesses and charge them accordingly.
As far as businesses contacting users is concerned, WhatsApp told TechCrunch that “businesses will only be able to contact people who have provided their phone number and agreed to be contacted by the business over WhatsApp.”
WhatsApp is currently a home to over 1 billion users who use the platform to stay connected with their friends and family. Introducing businesses might be a great move from WhatsApp but how will it impact the users is left to be seen.