WhatsApp is finalizing plans to monetize its messaging app by billing large companies for tools to better communicate with customers. The Facebook owned company will also offer a free app to small-to-medium sized businesses, though it hasn’t outlined the specific functionality of the app. The enterprise solution will allow global companies “to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates”.
Businesses will only be able to contact people who have provided their phone number and agreed to be contacted by the business over WhatsApp, according techcrunch. “We do intend on charging businesses in the future,” WhatsApp’s Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema also told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t have the details of monetization figured out.”
We envision, WhatsApp charging enterprises like “airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks” to have multiple representatives managing an account or sending high volumes of messages. It could also charge for artificial intelligence bot functionality or ecommerce transactions.
Recently, the company also officially announced its closed pilot program for verifying business accounts with a green checkmark to distinguish them from personal accounts and bots or fakes.
WhatsApp began testing verified accounts for businesses a week ago. Conversations with businesses are encrypted and they can be blocked. Interestingly, if a business isn’t already in your phone number contacts, its name will appear as whatever they register themselves as instead of their number. This could allow WhatsApp to create a business search engine with optional sponsored results, or let businesses cold-message people, possibly for a fee.
The enterprise solution will initially be free but it does plan to bill businesses. Some functionality that will be offered by the Business app and enterprise solution includes the ability to create a verified profile with info like address, description, and hours, plus “Features for helping manage customer chats like away messages for when businesses are not able to respond at the moment.”
With up to 1.3 billion monthly users and 1 billion daily users, WhatsApp has reached the massive scale necessary for it to earn significant revenue even from little advertising. Its Snapchat Stories copy cat feature, WhatsApp Status now has 250 million daily users, and could host vertical video ads between friends’ content the way Instagram does.