The biggest question post Facebook acquiring WhatsApp has been – when will Facebook allow businesses to connect with customers on the messaging platform? WhatsApp, the most popular messaging platform that was sold to Facebook earlier last year for $22 billion has always focused on solving the messaging problem, at a time when messaging apps like Line, WeChat ventured into various services in order to increase their revenues. With the latest announcement from Facebook this might change.
David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer gave the first hint recently, WhatsApp may use some functions that are being tested with Facebook Messenger, for example, business-to-consumer interaction that marketers could pay for. Speaking at the JPMorgan technology conference Monday in Boston, David added, “We think that enabling B2C messaging has good business potential for us. As we learn those things, I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of those things to WhatsApp, but that’s more longer-term than the near-term.”
WhatsApp, which 800 million users now, has never focused on revenue generation. In fact post acquisition Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he is in no rush to transform services like WhatsApp into businesses until they hit 1 billion users.
Interestingly, Facebook Messenger which has 600 million users has a mechanism for Business that enhances communications and interactions between people and businesses. While it is in testing mode, Messenger for business allows customers to receive relevant messages from the business including order confirmations and shipping status updates, and allows to take basic actions like modifying, tracking or returning an order. People also have the option to ask a business question, make requests and get quick responses. This whole set of interactions and features are unified in a single, ongoing thread between the person and the business.
At the moment, Facebook is working with an initial set of partners including Everlane and Zulily to change how people contact them. For example, if you buy something through Everlane, but want to modify, track, or return your order, you’ll be able to contact the business through Messenger.
Looks like Facebook will wait for the business features to succeed on Messenger before it rolls out on WhatsApp. With it being a mobile first company, on-boarding of business on the messaging platform will give a wide reach and revenue in today’s mobile driven economy. However, this won’t be happening in the near future but business can still use WhatsApp effectively by taking smart tips from the local vendors.