WhatsApp today announced that it's expanding its WhatsApp Business API to more large enterprises, and also that t's going to be charging these companies for sending messages to customers going forward. It has not specified what the cost will be, though sources suggested this could be announced within a week. Facebook is also introducing ads on the social network that click to WhatsApp.
WhatsApp launched its WhatsApp Business app for small businesses in January this year, a free Android app that businesses could use to respond to their customers. While that works for a small mom and pop operation which can use an app one one phone to respond to customers, for large enterprises, this is of limited use. Therefore, WhatsApp also has the WhatsApp Business API, which is used by a variety of partners including MakeMyTrip, Singapore Airlines, and Uber. Sources told HuffPost India that customers in India include MakeMyTrip, 1mg, Uber, BookMyShow, Goibibo.
According to the WhatsApp blog post, it's now going to start charging large businesses to send non-promotional content, such as shipping confirmations, appointment reminders or event tickets. Users can also send messages to the business to ask questions, and responding to these messages will be free, for the first 24 hours.
Sources said that WhatsApp will first make this solution available to larger companies where there is a high demand from customers for receiving information on mobile phones and with a need for great customer care, such as e-commerce and travel. The company, sources said, plans to build up WhatsApp Business APIs in a slow manner.
"WhatsApp for Business has been a great enabler in reaching out to our customers quickly and effectively," said Saujanya Srivastava, Group Chief Marketing Officer for MakeMyTrip, one of the Indian companies to make use of the platform.
Facebook, which owns the messaging platform, also blogged about testing ways to start a WhatsApp chat from ads on the social network. Under the new format, clicking on the ad will launch a pre-filled WhatsApp message. According to sources, this is seen as more of a long term goal, and will not appear in India — WhatsApp's biggest market — right away.
The WhatsApp Business app, launched in January, included features such as messaging statistics for analytics, tools such as automated greeting messages and quick replies, and support for WhatsApp Web. The WhatsApp Business pilot program began a year ago, in September 2017, bringing in verified accounts for businesses and features for support and quick help replies.
WhatsApp did not specify any targets for WhatsApp Business in the enterprise space, but did say that it aims to work with a "few hundred businesses" and a select number of companies that specialise in managing customer communications. Earlier in the day, messaging platform Gupshup said in a statement that it is working with WhatsApp to enable enterprises to connect with their customers. Some enterprises enabled by Gupshup to gain early access to WhatsApp Business include Citibank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, IndusInd Bank, ICICI Bank, and DishTV.