Facebook is further diving into monetising Whatsapp, which continues to contribute minimal numbers to its bottom line despite 100s of millions of users. The company is expanding its WhatsApp Business service with three major additions: shopping, Facebook Hosting Services, and new pricing for their services (paid services).
The company currently offers a free WhatsApp Business app for small businesses. For medium to large businesses they provide an API called WhatsApp Business API. This provides those businesses with a medium to directly get in touch with their customers through text and vice versa.
With this service, the companies can promote themselves and offer customer service, but usually the customer benefits from this service the most. After all, it is far more convenient to text someone to sort things out rather than waiting on hold and listening to the music they play until your ears start to hurt. It is also much more convenient and faster than writing emails. For these reasons, it has proven to be a good alternative to calls and emails for getting in touch with businesses.
Now Facebook is planning to expand this service and support more features. In their most recent blog post, they have briefly explained what these new additions are going to be.
Shopping is coming to WhatsApp Business, that is, the ability to shop directly from the messaging app. This will allow businesses to bridge the gap they have between customers by directly providing them the products they are looking for, and letting them make purchase without ever leaving the conversation. This feature is very likely to combine and expand on two already existing services or features: WhatsApp payments, which first made its debut in Brazil but was suspended only days after its launch and, QR Codes and Catalog sharing.
Facebook Hosting Services is another addition. There is currently not enough information on how Facebook plans to design and market this hosting service, but one thing we can be sure of is that it will be focused on its integration with WhatsApp business, Facebook Shops and Instagram for business. This can serve as a back-end structure that will support a range of business services which Facebook offers.
In the blog post, they have mentioned that businesses will be able to manage and access their WhatsApp messages via its hosting services. Another possible use case of this hosting service would be for businesses to store catalogs of their products, which can be accessed through WhatsApp’s shopping feature. This suggests that Facebook is planning to build a cohesive whole, rather than individual bits and pieces.
The last addition might come as a disappointment for a few. Facebook is going to start charging for the business services that it is going to offer through WhatsApp business. “We will charge business customers for some of the services we offer,” they wrote, in the blog post. This means that not all services are going to be charge. But at the same time, there is no information on which services are going to be charged and whether their WhatsApp Business app offering for small businesses will remain free.
They said that starting to charge businesses for the services they offer will “help WhatsApp continue building a business of our own while we provide and expand free end-to-end encrypted text, video and voice calling for more than two billion people.”
It is clear that Facebook wants to expand their reach, and also help new and old business create a better presence on the internet. Online shopping has seen a tremendous growth, especially during this pandemic. More and more business that operated offline are moving their business to the online world. It goes without saying how enormous the e-commerce market has become, but shopping directly through messaging apps is an unexplored territory which Facebook now plans to conquer.