About 1 billion people use WhatsApp, a messaging solution owned by Facebook, and its official blog announced big brands will have to start paying to communicate with consumers on the platform. The good news is marketers can do so with upgraded features.
On Tuesday, the WhatsApp Blog post about the change said:
We know businesses have many different needs. For example, they want an official presence — a verified profile so people can identify a business from another person — and an easier way to respond to messages. We're building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites and banks. These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations and other updates.
The post says WhatsApp is bringing out those upgrades in the coming months due to user feedback, including:
We've heard stories of shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from a single smartphone, and from people who are unsure about whether or not a business on WhatsApp is authentic.
The post links to a WhatsApp FAQ titled “WhatsApp Business Accounts” that provides a consumer-oriented, scant explanation about the enterprise-level upgrades:
- If you see a green badge next to a contact's name, it means that WhatsApp has verified that the phone number of this contact belongs to a business account.
- Chats between you and businesses are end-to-end encrypted. Some businesses may use service providers to manage their messages, and those service providers may be able to read the messages you send to those businesses.
- If you'd like to stop a business from contacting you, you can block them.
Business Insider’s Alex Heath offered a possible explanation for the WhatsApp charges in his article on Tuesday.
“Facebook spent $22 billion on acquiring WhatsApp in 2014,” he wrote. “The app used to charge users a $1 per year subscription but dropped the fee in early 2016. WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum has long been a staunch opponent of traditional advertising and has promised that the app will never show ads.
“By choosing to charge businesses out of the gate,” he continues, “WhatsApp is taking a different approach to making money than Messenger, Facebook's other standalone messaging app. Messenger let businesses conduct customer support for free but never managed to monetize the approach. The app has recently started showing ads.”
As for dropping the subscription fee in early 2016, WhatsApp started collecting user data a little later, an August 2016 report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation shows.
WhatsApp leaders haven’t yet figured out how much they’ll charge enterprise users of the platform, Reuters reports of a Wall Street Journal article.
Despite what BI reports, MSN says WhatsApp hasn’t ruled out display ads on the platform. MSN reports on Tuesday:
In order to contact customers, companies will have to receive an approval from the user. A spokesperson for the company has since clarified that the feature will work on opt-in basis.
Companies in Europe, Brazil, India and Indonesia are already running trials with the features, according to reports. One of the first giants to test the new function is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
TechCrunch reports on the same day: “Its Snapchat Stories clone WhatsApp Status now has 250 million daily users, and could host vertical video ads between friends’ content the way Instagram does. It could also insert display ads into the inbox like Facebook Messenger.”
— Jaime Jimenez (@jaime_jsm) September 5, 2017
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