WhatsApp already offers some means of communication with businesses, e.g. people can text in news tips to the BBC. But it still lacks broader support for true business and brand support, such as analytical tools, group messaging, as well as automated messages. WeChat, for example, has long been used by businesses to bring in new customers in Asia. It now features payment tools as well as advertising and other tools to allow users to not only communicate with businesses, but buy products and services directly through the messenger app.
Over 10m of WeChat’s accounts are official brand and business accounts, and 80% of its users follow at least one such account.
Similarly, Facebook offers business support for its Messenger app. Kik has been utilising bots to let users engage in automated chats with larger brands and game makers.
It’s not yet clear if WhatsApp will introduce advertising features or remain on the service provisioning end of its business communications support. Official charges to businesses have also not been clarified, though it’s likely that WhatsApp will roll out a fee.