WhatsApp is taking its next steps towards monetization, with the hugely popular messaging app announcing a range of new features designed to better facilitate business use.
First off, WhatsApp has officially announced their new business profiles, which started appearing 'in the wild' last week.
Like Facebook's grey verification badges (not the blue ones, those are significantly different), all businesses on WhatsApp will soon be able to get their own official tick - you provide a business phone number and/or relevant contact info linked to your official account, go through the verification process, and you'll be able to cement your official brand status within the app.
WhatsApp verification badges will make it easier for you to stand out on the platform, while also providing assurance to your customers that they are, in fact, speaking to the official brand account, as opposed to scammers.
In addition to this, WhatsApp will also make it easier for users to understand when they're communicating with a business by changing the color of the text bubbles when engaging with brands.
But the bigger announcement, most notably for larger scale organizations, is that WhatsApp will also be introducing new, paid tools to help organizations make better use of the platform.
As explained by WhatsApp:
"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. These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates."
Note the tool for smaller businesses will be free, while the enterprise version will be paid.
The notifications sound very much like those available within Facebook Messenger, which were updated only recently to incorporate a range of new prompts. These updates will enable businesses to stay in touch with WhatsApp users with various push notifications, which, given the app's usage, will no doubt be very enticing, dependent on how the actual monetization process works.
Offering improved business options is the next logical step for WhatsApp. At Facebook's annual stockholder meeting in June last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed their monetization strategy for the messaging app, and all of their tools, detailing how the company follows a three-stage process for monetization:
- Build a product that people love
- Facilitate organic business behavior on the app (free of charge)
- Prove additional avenues for businesses who are seeking to expand their reach and presence
Over the past year, both Messenger and WhatsApp have been moving through that second stage and into the third, which is where this latest announcement clearly sits.
Facebook's likely to take a more gentle approach with WhatsApp than it has with Messenger, given their previous stance that they wouldn't put ads in WhatsApp for fear of degrading the user experience. But at a billion daily actives and rising, and with $19 billion in investment, Facebook needs to start converting that attention to real dollars. And given they already ditched the $0.99 sign-up fee back in 2014, they need to find alternatives somewhere in between.
That doesn't mean they won't ever put ads into WhatsApp, that they won't slip sponsored messages in between WhatsApp Status sequences or charge for push notifications to certain users, but they'll likely explore every other option first. And if they want these new enterprise tools to pay off, they'll need to offer some significant incentives for big businesses to pay a fee to reach their audience.
But then again, with a billion daily actives, they do have a wide range of opportunities to consider, with no shortage of interested brands.
The new WhatsApp business tools will be rolling out soon.