Update (Jan 23): WhatsApp Business is now available in India. Originally the company had launched the app in only five countries, but it quietly expanded the availability earlier today.
Earlier (Jan 19): Four months after initially revealing the plans to bring business accounts to its messaging app, Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Thursday announced the launch of its Business app for Android.
This free-to-install app aims to provide the small business owners an easy way to connect with their consumers. Even though the consumer version of WhatsApp is already used by several businesses in markets like Brazil and India, the company is beginning the WhatsApp Business roll-out with Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, UK and US markets. Brazil, India and other markets will be getting access to the business app in the coming weeks, the company wrote in a blog post.
The arrival of WhatsApp Business doesn’t mean any changes for the normal users, who use the consumer version to chat with family and friends. WhatsApp Business will help the small businesses get an official presence on this very popular messaging platform.
According the company, the app will allow the business owners to setup proper profiles with details about their business, email address, website information, store address and more. The app also include several messaging tools for the businesses to effectively communicate with their consumers like quick replies to FAQs or introductory greeting messages and more. Additionally, WhatsApp will also provide analytics about the messages and whether they are working for the WhatsApp Business users.
The business accounts will be clearly identifiable, so the consumers know that they are interacting with a business account.
WhatsApp Business is free for now, however, it is being seen as a possible revenue stream for the application. Since letting go of the $1 subscription charge, WhatsApp hasn’t had any revenue model for the app and the company executives as well as Mark Zuckerberg have already said they don’t plan to place advertisements on the app. So, monetising these business accounts maybe the only way for the app to make any money. When Facebook had bought WhatsApp for $16 billion back in 2014, its massive user-base was a valuable commodity for Facebook. But, it has since been almost four years and Facebook must be thinking that it is high time that WhatsApp started making some money for them.