Facebook’s messaging service WhatsApp on Wednesday launched a new feature to find businesses in its app for the first time, the company told Reuters.
The test in São Paulo, Brazil, which allows WhatsApp users to find stores and services through an in-app directory, is the latest feature in Facebook’s drive to boost e-commerce on its services.
“This could be… the primary way people start a business process in WhatsApp,” said Matt Idema, vice president of business messaging for Facebook, in an interview this week.
WhatsApp, unlike Facebook and Instagram, does not serve ads in its app. Idema said that previously companies promoted their WhatsApp numbers on packaging or websites or used Facebook ads to get users to chat on WhatsApp.
The messaging service has increasingly courted business users, with a specialized application for small businesses and an API, or type of software interface, for large businesses to connect their systems, which generates revenue.
As online retail continued to thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook pushed in-app shopping functionality into its apps. In June, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s Shops functionality would be extended to WhatsApp in several countries. In recent years, WhatsApp has also launched shopping tools such as product catalogs and shopping carts.
WhatsApp said the new test will include thousands of businesses in categories such as food, retail and local services in certain neighborhoods in São Paulo. Idema said India and Indonesia are good candidates to expand the functionality.
The company, which has faced a backlash from users amid confusion over privacy updates and has been fined by Ireland’s data protection regulator for breach of privacy, said that it will not know or store the location of people’s search or results through the new directory feature.
Idema has not ruled out the possibility that WhatsApp may introduce advertisements into the app in the future.
“There’s definitely a route on ads, which is Facebook’s core business model, which in the long run I think in some form or another will be part of WhatsApp’s business model,” he said. declared. WhatsApp says about one million advertisers are currently using Facebook and Instagram’s “Click WhatsApp” ads to send users to the messaging app.
Idema said WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $ 19 billion in a landmark deal in 2014 but has been slow to monetize its functionality, is also excited about non-ad models like software making. to help businesses manage their services in Facebook applications.