Instant messaging platform WhatsApp has outlined its two-pronged approach to help businesses reach out to customers through its service and is running pilots with several mid-sized companies in India, its largest market globally.
In a blog post on Tuesday, WhatsApp said it is building and testing two new tools for businesses — a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for larger firms. For now, the company has not shared any details on how it plans to monetise its service for businesses.
"These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates... Whether someone is communicating with a business around the corner or around the globe, people expect WhatsApp to be fast, reliable, and secure," WhatsApp said in its blog post.ALSO READ: Facebook to monetise WhatsApp, launch new features for businesses
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the company's chief operating officer Matt Idema said WhatsApp will eventually begin charging businesses for features it offers within its two new business tools.
In India, WhatsApp is working with firms such as online pharmacy 1mg and restaurant discovery and food ordering service Zomato, among others.
While the business tools are currently undergoing testing, WhatsApp's application for consumers has begun receiving updates to allow businesses to connect with users. The first such change that WhatsApp notified users about was for verified business profiles, with accounts used by businesses being signed with a green tick mark for users to identify them.
"We don't have the details of monetisation figured out," Idema told WSJ. He, however, added that the company was indeed looking at businesses as a way to monetise the service, which had been acquired by social network giant Facebook for $22 billion.
WhatsApp says it has over a billion daily active users on its platform globally.
Complementing its push to get businesses to reach customers on its platform, WhatsApp is also working on a way for users to transact on its platform. The company is working with the National Payments Corporation of India to allow users to send and receive money through unified payment interface (UPI), the country's own digital payments standard.
In 1mg's case, the company says it is using WhatsApp's business tool to reach out to customers' whose orders lack documentation such as a prescription. When contacted by 1mg's team, users can simply take an image of the prescription and send it to them over WhatsApp. Gaurav Agarwal, the co-founder of 1mg told WSJ that doing this through WhatsApp was much easier than doing it over SMS and or its own app.
With UPI integration, it is not hard to imagine banks, telcos, airlines and e-commerce firms accepting payments for their services through WhatsApp. For WhatsApp, this could turn out to be a strong revenue stream that's a strong alternative to advertising, apart from possibly charging for services such as having automated bots answering customer queries.