With 100 billion messages sent a day by its two billion global users, the reach of WhatsApp is unparalleled and boasts nothing but potential for businesses. And it seems many have gotten the memo.
The latest WhatsApp Businesses figures released last month show that there are currently 50 million users of WhatsApp Business and as many as 175 million consumers messaging these business accounts daily.
Considering WhatsApp Business was launched just over two years ago, these numbers are nothing short of impressive.
WhatsApp’s ambitious plans to become brands’ go-to solution to interact with consumers at every touchpoint possible is no secret.
However, its existing suite of business products still falls just a tad short in providing both sellers and buyers with what they need for the company to properly establish itself as the default solution. This is especially so when compared to the much more expansive tools available on Facebook and Instagram.
But WhatsApp has asked, and it’s listened.
Following feedback on what’s worked and what’s not, the company has identified opportunity gaps and has plans to fill them.
To that end, Facebook has announced it will be adding three new features to WhatsApp Business to “make messaging the best way for consumers and businesses to connect.”
In this article, we’ll break down what these changes are and what they mean for WhatsApp Business users.
1. Hosting Services and Sales and Marketing Features
One of the three new features is hosting services. This is a tie-in with Facebook themselves and will allow small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access and use Facebook’s hosting services to store and manage their WhatsApp Business communication data at no extra cost.
As it stands, WhatsApp Business API users are either storing their data in an on-site server or signing up with an external, remote hosting service through their business solution provider, both of which, according to Facebook, require “costly servers to maintain.”
In their own words:
“With this change, businesses will be able to choose to use Facebook’s own secure hosting infrastructure for free, which helps remove a costly item for every company that wants to use the WhatsApp Business API, including our business service providers, and will help them all save money.”
What this will lead to is a cost reduction in acquiring the WhatsApp Business API, which will make it much more attractive to SMEs.
This would also make sense for brands that are already using Facebook’s other business offerings such as Facebook business pages and Facebook Messenger to consolidate all their data into one single provider.
Alongside its new hosting service, Facebook will also release new and expanded sales and marketing features on WhatsApp. This will allow brands to market products through WhatsApp catalogs and via Facebook’s merchant solutions such as its shops and checkout carts.
“Providing this option will make it easier for small and medium size businesses to get started, sell products, keep their inventory up to date, and quickly respond to messages they receive – wherever their employees are,” says Facebook.
No official date has been announced but we’re expecting these to be rolled out in the coming months.
What this means in a nutshell: Lower costs of storing WhatsApp Business communication data and improved WhatsApp Business sales and marketing features.
2. Messaging Charges
It’s no secret that Facebook has been trying to monetize WhatsApp ever since it acquired it for a steep $19 billion in 2014.
Its limited success hasn’t been down to a lack of trying. Most infamously, it was forced to U-turn on plans to allow ads on the chat app in early 2020 following heavy user backlash.
But that’s not to say the company’s not making any money from WhatsApp.
Currently, WhatsApp Business API users are charged to send certain messages to customers, including replies to customer messages received more than 24 hours ago as well as what WhatsApp calls “templated messages.”
The cost per message also varies from country to country and is charged using a tier system—the more messages you send, the lower the cost per message.
Facebook has not provided any specifics regarding this new pricing structure and has kept it vague, revealing only that it has decided to “charge business customers for some of the services.”
It says that this will “help WhatsApp continue building a business of our own” while it works on improving its free end-to-end encrypted text, video, and voice calling for personal users.
Given the lack of details, such as an estimated implementation date, the sort of charges, and affected services, exactly what impact this will have on WhatsApp Business users remains to be seen.
It has, nevertheless, said that it will be maintaining the zero cost for consumers to send businesses WhatsApp messages.
“By our reckoning, Facebook may further limit the type of messages that businesses can send out for free while expanding its messaging services for businesses at an added cost,” says Ken Yeung, CEO at WATI.
“Raising current messaging rates, at least for the lower tranches of the first one million messages, would also fall within the realm of possibilities.”
What this means in a nutshell: Higher messaging costs for WhatsApp Business users. Details are unclear at this point.
3. WhatsApp Integrations and In-App Shopping
Image credit: WhatsApp
Presently, brands using WhatsApp Business can take advantage of existing features to market their products. These include creating a WhatsApp business profile, adding a product catalog, and more.
But WhatsApp has bigger plans and isn’t just stopping there.
It’s now making it possible for shoppers to carry out in-app purchases, much like what many are already doing on Facebook and Instagram.
To start, it will be introducing the possibility for businesses to integrate WhatsApp into their day-to-day solutions. Already, businesses can create Facebook ads that click to WhatsApp and add a WhatsApp chat button to their website easily.
But with this move, WhatsApp is looking far beyond these as businesses will also be able to implement more WhatsApp integrations into other commerce and customer solutions. The idea is to direct users to WhatsApp as much as possible.
This is then complemented with a new in-app shopping feature. From adding items to cart and checking out, consumers will be able to finalize their purchases within a WhatsApp chat itself.
This is all part of Facebook’s ongoing efforts to help small businesses that have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and to facilitate and maintain their communication with consumers as most continue to shun brick-and-mortar stores.
What this means in a nutshell: More WhatsApp integrations and WhatsApp Business users can sell to buyers directly within WhatsApp chats.
WhatsApp Business Changes: More To Come
There’s certainly much to look forward to with these recent announcements. We are expecting more exciting details to come through over the coming months so watch this space for updates.
If you’d like to get your hands on the WhatsApp Business API, WATI is an official and verified WhatsApp Business Service Provider and we can help you get set up. Simply get in touch with us and we’ll handle the rest.
WATI is owned by Clare.AI, a digital and innovative startup that brings together cutting-edge tools powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide top-notch customer communication solutions. The company is proudly trusted by a host of Fortune 500 companies.