WhatsApp Now Gets Ready For Business Users

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jan 19, 2016


The world’s most popular messaging service, WhatsApp, which is about to hit 1 billion users (that’s like one-seventh of the world’s population) said its finally going to start inviting businesses onto its network. The number of active users on WhatsApp is 990 million. The company has previously said it was growing by about 1 million users a day.

In a recent blog post, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum mentioned, “Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”

Koum also mentioned, WhatsApp is going totally free, dropping the 99 cent subscription that it applied to certain users after a year of free use. He mwntioned, “Nearly a billion people around the world today rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and family. From a new dad in Indonesia sharing photos with his family, to a student in Spain checking in with her friends back home, to a doctor in Brazil keeping in touch with her patients, people rely on WhatsApp to be fast, simple and reliable.”

Read more: WhatsApp Gets 900 Mn Monthly Users: Study

While the company asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year, they found that this approach hasn’t worked well. Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they’re worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. “So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service,” he said.

WhatsApp, the service that offers free text, picture and video messages, has been slowly working to develop end-to-end encrypted communications services for more than a year. It has already introduced full encryption for users on Android phones. The seven-year-old company, which was acquired by social media giant Facebook for $19.2 billion in 2014. 

The move to expand in the business community is part of a larger global trend in the use of mobile messaging apps. Facebook also offers its own Facebook Messenger, and under the guidance of former PayPal CEO David Marcus, it too is expanding mobile messaging into businesses, including airlines (checking flight statuses), online retailers (tracking orders), and Uber (getting a ride) - even though analysts believe it will take some time for this service to become popular in the US.

In fact, Thomas Husson, analyst at Forrester Research, told Financial Times said that WhatsApp was following in the footsteps of China’s WeChat. With over 600 million users, the Chinese messaging platform started inviting businesses onto its network in 2013 with official accounts, and over the years has expanded the kinds of features that those businesses can use to reach out to users.

The service, owned by internet group Tencent, offers much more than just messaging, including the ability to access entertainment content, order a taxi and pay for goods directly from the platform. Today, WeChat (or more precisely its Chinese-focused product Weixin) has over 10 million of these official accounts, including McDonalds, Asian healthcare store Watson’s, media organisations to name a few.