Facebook is looking at how WhatsApp can help businesses reach new customers. According to a Bloomberg report, Facebook might allow brands to contact customers through WhatsApp.
“We think that enabling that B2C messaging has good business potential for us,” David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, said at a JPMorgan technology conference Monday in Boston, reports Bloomberg. “As we learn those things, I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of those things to WhatsApp, but that’s more longer-term than the near-term.”
The Bloomberg report adds, “WhatsApp may use some functions that are being tested with Facebook Messenger.”
Facebook bought WhatsApp last year for $22 billion, the biggest deal in technology history so far, and for investors the biggest question has been how Facebook plans to convert WhatsApp into a viable business idea. WhatsApp lost $232 million in the first half of 2014 alone.
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With WhatsApp, one of the key features has been that the app remains ad-free. Also after the first year users are expected to pay $1 for the app but many of them get an extension to continue using WhatsApp for free.
Where businesses connecting with WhatsApp goes, this is not radically new. In India, many restaurants, home delivery services have turned to WhatsApp and users can just send a message via the app placing their order and it will be delivered. How WhatsApps’ official B2C idea will play out remains unclear for now.
WhatsApp recently announced that it has 800 million monthly active users, which is a fairly big number. WhatsApp’s co-founder and CEO Jan Koum made the announcement on Facebook noting, “WhatsApp – now serving 800,000,000 monthly active users. Reminder for the press out there: active and registered users are not the same thing.”
In January, WhatsApp had said it had the 700 million monthly active users, which meant that in a span of over 4 months, they added another 100 million monthly active users. While user growth has continued at a very high pace for WhatsApp, the business model has not really involved.
The latest announcement though raises the concern that the service could end up getting more spam, given how in India already messages tend to go ‘viral’ on the app. The other side to this is that connecting to a business with WhatsApp sounds like the logical next step because the app is used so extensively by users across the world.
What is not clear is WhatsApp will evolve like a platform, like how Facebook hopes to transform Facebook Messenger and whether WhatsApp might soon allow for transactions as well. For now, based on the report we’ll have to wait and see how WhatsApp’s new B2C idea evolves.