Many free services on WhatsApp will now come with a price as Facebook eyes the mobile service as a potentially significant revenue stream.
Facebook expanded WhatsApp Business, a chat service for brands to connect with customers, to include extra services for a charge. New features, such as a “hosting” service and inventory management, will now be available to the platform’s 50 million business users. The updates could help WhatsApp grow its business audience and make it a one-stop solution for customer interactions and internal organization. Currently, 175 million WhatsApp users message a business through the app each day, so by making it easier for brands and customers to connect, WhatsApp could increase interactions. WhatsApp will also charge for smaller services, like the sending of receipts or boarding passes, which opens up an additional sales channel. To connect WhatsApp to Facebook, the company is also enabling businesses to sell products on WhatsApp via Facebook Shops, its new online store. By doing so, Facebook could streamline its e-commerce operations and offer a brand-centric shopping experience to mobile app users.
Rolling out a handful of payable services on WhatsApp allows the tech conglomerate to extend its revenue stream beyond Instagram and Facebook. While the latter two are generally relied on to generate revenue according to a Gartner report, amplifying WhatsApp could bring in additional, international sales and boost its presence as an e-commerce platform. For the initiative, Facebook will only monetize a few features on WhatsApp, which allows it to continue offering a majority of its features for free. By doing so, WhatsApp could continue to foster meaningful interactions between businesses and customers alike, particularly with small and medium sized businesses that currently rely on virtual connections to stay afloat during the Coronavirus pandemic. Helping businesses on WhatsApp follows a larger trend within Facebook to offer advanced features to small businesses during the crisis. With consumers shifting to online shopping during the pandemic, making it easier to shop could drive more users to WhatsApp Business.
By adding payable features, WhatsApp could create a new revenue stream and increase business’ reliance on its platforms, and in turn level its shoppable capabilities with tech titans Facebook and Instagram.