Facebook to monetize WhatsApp by charging businesses

Posted Sep 5, 2017 by James Walker
Facebook is planning to start monetising WhatsApp, the messaging app used by over one billion people every day. The company intends to expand its service to include communication with businesses, echoing Facebook's own Messenger product.
WhatsApp on a smartphone
WhatsApp on a smartphone
Anton / Pexels
The shift was announced in a blog post today. WhatsApp said it wants to build for businesses as well as people, reflecting the growing importance of tech inside enterprises. WhatsApp has established its name by aiming to keep individuals connected with friends and family. Its focus is now expanding to much larger audiences.
According to WhatsApp, business owners already rely on its platform to keep in touch with customers. Local shopkeepers reach out to "hundreds" of customers from their phone, maintaining communication channels with repeat visitors. WhatsApp has recognised an opportunity here, building a new product aimed to streamline its service for businesses.
The product hasn't been officially announced yet. WhatsApp said it will start to test its features "in the coming months." It will include verified profiles, a way of managing messages from customers and a dedicated WhatsApp Business app for larger enterprises. This will be tailored to firms with "global" customer bases who need a large-scale messaging app to manage support requests, process sales and send automated confirmations.
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"In the coming months, we'll be testing new features that aim to solve some of these challenges, and make it easier for people to communicate with the businesses they want to reach on WhatsApp," the company said in a blog post. "Our approach is simple – we want to apply what we've learned helping people connect with each other to helping people connect with businesses that are important to them."
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, WhatsApp Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema confirmed the service will not be free. Facebook is moving to align WhatsApp more closely with its own product portfolio. After monetising Messenger by adding in-app advertisements, it's now seeking revenue from WhatsApp users by targeting business audiences. It's the first time the company has looked to financially capitalise on the app's success.
There's still details to be worked out before WhatsApp opens up its business app. The company said it will be listening to feedback to make sure it builds a product that fits the way firms communicate. It's also yet to finalise how the monetisation will work. Ads seem unlikely, making a recurring subscription the most probable form of charging.