WhatsApp mulls business revenue streams

Facebook-owned IM service WhatsApp reckons it might finally be able to make some money by charging businesses for clever access to their punters.

Apparently quite a lot of people already use WhatsApp around the world to interact with shopkeepers and other relatively simple business transactions such as placing orders, but the company reckons that experience can be improved. So it’s going to be spending the next few months WhatsApp is going to focus on special features for this sort of thing and is even launching a special business app, which is free for now.

“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,” explained a WhatsApp blog. “These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates.”

In an interview with the WSJ WhatsApp COO Matt Idema revealed that the ultimate aim is to develop features businesses might be willing to pay for. “We want to put a basic foundation in place to allow people to message businesses and for them to get the responses that they want,” he said. “We do intend on charging businesses in the future.”

There isn’t much detail right now but WhatsApp would have to come up with some pretty compelling features to persuade businesses to pay for something that is not only free now but has countless equally free competitors. Maybe it will follow in its parent’s footsteps and find ways of exploiting its users’ data for profit.

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