WhatsApp takes a step into the world of business

WhatsApp has launched a business version of the popular messaging app, just to make sure businesses don’t actually have to talk to those pesky customers face-to-face.

The move should not come as a surprise as the man on the street either doesn’t have the time to talk to businesses on the phone, or quite frankly doesn’t want to. The resentment of conversation goes both ways.

“People all around the world use WhatsApp to connect with small businesses they care about — from online clothing companies in India to auto parts stores in Brazil,” the company said on its blog.

“But WhatsApp was built for people and we want to improve the business experience. For example, by making it easier for businesses to respond to customers, separating customer and personal messages, and creating an official presence.”

On the app companies will be able to create their own profiles, create quick replies to frequently asked questions, automated messages, split personal and business messages, and even spam potential customers to ‘introduce’ them to the business. The idea does seem to be a continuation of Facebook’s wider strategy to monetize small businesses.

WhatsApp owner Facebook has been increasing the emphasis on smaller and medium size businesses to continue the extraordinary growth it has seen over the last decade. Whether this is helping local plumbers to engage with the local community or a start-up to reach the next continent, the strategy has been a success. Taking WhatsApp down the same route would be a sensible plan.

The pilot scheme was introduced in September last year, with the intention of being free for smaller organizations, while WhatsApp will monetize through relationships with the larger enterprise customers. In short, the more message you are likely to send, the more you’ll pay. There is potential for sponsored messages here, as there were updates to the T&Cs last year which opened the door for greater flexibility in advertising solutions.

The new business version of the app is now available in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the UK and the US, and will be introduced in new counties before too long.

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