As social media engagement increasingly shifts to messages, Meta has already flagged its intentions to maximize the business opportunities in messaging, including Click-to-Message ads and other direct connection tools.
That push will also extend to WhatsApp, and facilitating more businesses in the world’s most popular messaging platform. And on that front, today, at the first-ever WhatsApp Business Summit in Brazil, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new update that will enable WhatsApp users to search for businesses - by category or name – direct in the WhatsApp UI.
As you can see in this example, now, users will be able to search for businesses in a dedicated element, accessible via the search function in the app. The search function will include a mini-map so you can check out nearby businesses, along with category filters and verified business accounts, making it easier to access your various in-app shopping options.
As explained by WhatsApp:
“We’ve built business search in a way that preserves people’s privacy. What you search for is processed in a way that cannot be linked back to your account. To start, we’re bringing the ability to search for a business to Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and the UK where people can find companies using our WhatsApp Business Platform. In Brazil, search will help people find small businesses as well.”
That could provide a big boost for businesses looking to use WhatsApp as a connection tool – and with WhatsApp usage on the rise, particularly in the US, that could now be a much more important consideration.
Because as noted, people are sharing fewer updates to their social feeds, and more to private DM groups. Indeed, Zuckerberg says that social feeds are increasingly becoming discovery platforms, and with that in mind, it may be that users are now more open to engaging with brands in their DMs as well.
At the least, it’s likely worth adding WhatsApp as a connection option, and these new discovery elements, once fully rolled out, could also provide more impetus to establish a WhatsApp presence for your business.
In addition to this, Meta says that it’s also expanding WhatsApp payments.
“Ultimately we want people to be able to make a secure payment right from a chat with their credit or debit card. We recently launched this experience in India, and we’re excited to now be testing this in Brazil with multiple payment partners. This seamless checkout experience will be a game-changer for people and businesses looking to buy and sell on WhatsApp without having to go to a website, open another app or pay in person.”
India has quickly become a key region for Meta, with the developing market now home to more Facebook users than the US, while WhatsApp is used by over 550 million Indian consumers, and increasingly for business.
Meta’s hope is that it can evolve WhatsApp into an Indian version of WeChat, which is used for virtually everything in China, from messaging to commerce to paying bills. WhatsApp is already on this path, and the addition of more business discovery and payment tools will accelerate this, while also facilitating new opportunities in other regions.
Worth noting, too, that Brazil is the largest user market for WhatsApp outside of Asia, at close to 150 million users.
But again, while WhatsApp sees more usage in other markets, the broader growth of messaging has also seen it become a more significant platform in the US and Europe as well. In other words, the WhatsApp opportunity is growing, and it’s worth considering where it might fit in your brand strategy, as Meta looks to continue to build out its WhatsApp Business tools.