WhatsApp has today launched new pay-to-use tools allowing businesses to communicate with their customers. The Facebook-owned messaging app’s Business API is its first revenue-generating enterprise product and is initially being made available to just 90 companies, including the likes of Uber and Booking.com.
Businesses will be able to respond to messages from users for free for up to 24 hours, but will be charged a fixed rate per message sent after that. Companies will only be able to message customers who contacted them first, but the API will enable them to automatically send notifications like appointment reminders of shipping confirmations.
“We’ve been testing the WhatsApp Business API for months and we are now working with more than 90 large businesses including B2W, MakeMyTrip, Singapore Airlines, Uber and Wish,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.
“Businesses using WhatsApp have received positive feedback from customers who have enjoyed a fast, reliable experience in an app they’re already using for messaging.”
WhatsApp said it plans to bring more businesses on board over a period of time. It will work directly with “a few hundred businesses” and select a number of companies that specialise in managing customer communication.
The messaging giant is also formally launching its new display ads product worldwide. This will give businesses the ability to buy ads on Facebook’s News Feed that redirect potential customers to WhatsApp conversations.
“When a person taps on an Ad that clicks to WhatsApp, they will be transferred to a prefilled WhatsApp chat where they can message your business quickly,” according to Facebook’s blog post.
“Across our customer base consisting of thousands of brands who are actively messaging their customers, there is absolutely no channel that has been more in-demand than WhatsApp. On one level it’s about the app’s security and privacy — more than ever, brands are sensitive to their customer interactions being mined for competitor insights, and no business messenger is as secure and trustworthy as WhatsApp.
“For brands operating in the southern hemisphere, WhatsApp is really the only channel there is — people don’t commonly check email and SMS is too expensive. Case in point is Four Seasons Buenos Aires — until WhatsApp became available, the Argentinian property didn’t adopt the hotel chain’s uber successful chat program.”