Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014, and it was only a matter of time before the advertising giant began monetizing their newly purchased platform.
In 2017, WhatsApp announced they would begin building tools to help business communicate directly with WhatsApp users. Enter the WhatsApp business app, a B2C product that claims to make communication between customers and business faster than emailing or calling. With the launch of the new product, WhatsApp advised they would eventually charge large enterprises, but would offer it for free to small and medium sized business (of which there are currently 3 million!).
In August of 2018, WhatsApp released three new ways for customers to connect with businesses: a shortcut button to immediately start a conversation, the ability to have businesses send you information like a boarding pass on WhatsApp, and real-time support.
Alongside three new communication options for businesses, the app released their first enterprise level, revenue-generating product – the WhatsApp Business API – which allows large enterprises to respond to customer messages for free within 24 hours of receiving them, but outside of that would charge a fixed rate per message. Businesses also have the option to manually respond to customer service messages using tools like Twilio or Zendesk.
Much like with messenger, Facebook can display ads that drive directly to a fully loaded WhatsApp conversation. Business can buy ads with the objective of driving users to a WhatsApp chat.
The way I see it, the WhastApp features sound identical to the Facebook Messenger features. However, if WhatsApp can position itself as a cheaper (and quicker) alternative to current customer service options, like call centres, then this could be Facebook’s saving grace. If customers receive quicker communication, they will prefer the platform and stop using alternative methods. In turn, only charging an enterprise if they respond to a message outside of the 24-hour window will further improve the customer service experience, pushing businesses to respond promptly in order to keep costs down. A positive loop if you ask me.