WhatsApp has announced some new business tools as the app slowly moves towards monetization - and creating another new revenue stream for parent company Facebook.
First off, WhatsApp has announced new updates for the WhatsApp Business app. Launched last year, WhatsApp Business provides more ways for organizations to connect with WhatsApp users, with dedicated tools and stats to help optimize platform usage.
From today, businesses will have some new options for connecting with their customers through the tool – businesses will now be able to:
- Request helpful information - When you need a shipping confirmation or boarding pass, you can give your mobile number to a business on their website, on their app, or in their store to send you information on WhatsApp.
- Start a conversation - You may see a click-to-chat button on a website or Facebook ad to quickly message a business.
- Get support - Some businesses may provide real-time support on WhatsApp to answer questions about their products or help you resolve an issue.
The functions are much the same as those available through Facebook Messenger, and it makes sense for WhatsApp to evolve along the same lines.
But here’s the kicker, and where WhatsApp will diverge from Messenger’s path - in an effort to maintain a level of control over business messaging, and to generate revenue from its business tools, WhatsApp will allow businesses respond to messages from users’ messages for free for up to 24 hours, but will then charge them per message sent after that.
The charges per message will not be huge – TechCrunch reports that the costs will be between half a cent and 9 cents (US) per response. But it will give WhatsApp a means to limit over-messaging from businesses, while, as noted, generating revenue for the app as a result.
On top of this, Facebook’s also adding a new option for businesses to start WhatsApp chats via Facebook News Feed ads.
As explained by Facebook:
“Over the last several months, we’ve been testing ways to help people start a WhatsApp chat from ads they see on Facebook. Facebook Ads that click to WhatsApp help people discover your business, help you engage with them to explain your product or service and grow a relationship. When a person taps on an Ad that clicks to WhatsApp, they will be transferred to a prefilled WhatsApp chat where they can message your business quickly.”
It’s not ads in WhatsApp itself, but it will help businesses boost awareness of their WhatsApp presence by partnering with Facebook.
But ads within WhatsApp are coming – TechCrunch has also notes that WhatsApp’s planning to insert ads into its own Stories clone, called ‘WhatsApp Status”, beginning sometime next year.
These are significant moves for WhatsApp, which will likely enable Facebook to generate a lot more income from the messaging giant. If there were concerns about Facebook’s slowdown following its most recent earnings report, investors should take heart. There’s still a lot of potential in The Social Network yet.
With WhatsApp surging to 1.5 billion active users, and not yet generating profit, it makes logical sense for Facebook to want to push ahead with business tools, and the conflict between Koum’s ideals and Facebook’s strategy, reportedly, lead to Koum’s exit.
As such, with new WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels in place, a long time Facebook staffer, it was only a matter of time before we saw new business tools rolling out to WhatsApp, and these new options are likely just the first measures in a line of planned developments for the messaging platform.
For businesses, that could mean a whole new world of opportunity. Messaging apps are now growing faster than social platforms – in fact, the top four messaging apps now have more users than the top four social tools, with the gap widening each day.
And while Facebook Messenger is the leading messaging app in western regions, WhatsApp rules pretty much everywhere else – as an example, some 80% of small businesses in India and Brazil say that WhatsApp helps them communicate with customers and grow their brands.
Given this, business tools for WhatsApp could open up new opportunities in entirely new regions, opening doors to broader connection opportunities and audiences you’d never considered.
It may not seem like it matters much right now, and these first, careful steps towards WhatsApp monetization are relatively small. But it is worth keeping an eye on such developments, and considering what they mean in terms of future potential.