WhatsApp will soon be ready for business, and this could have some major consequences for its 1.2 billion users. The Indian market is one that is particularly important for the app, given there are over 200 million active users here, and this number will only continue to grow due to the immense popularity of the application.
In an interview to Wall Street Journal, WhatsApp’s chief operating officer (COO) Matt Idema also confirmed the company will charge larger enterprises in the future, though they don’t have an exact model figured out. So what will businesses on WhatsApp mean for users and privacy? We try and answer some questions.
How will businesses, enterprises appear on WhatsApp?
WhatsApp will soon have verified profiles for official businesses. In fact reports say BookMyShow already has a profile on WhatsApp and is one of the early partners involved in testing. Officially, WhatsApp says it is already testing a “new, free business app for small companies and as well an enterprise solution for bigger firms.” These verified profiles will have a green tick next to them, along with the customer service number, address of the company, website link, etc. WhatsApp has itself showcased how these verified business profiles will appear on the platform.
So yes, soon a bank, airline, or e-commerce website could have an official presence on WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned app has made it clear that it wants to help people connect with these businesses faster, and in a more personal way.
So how will services, businesses interact with users on WhatsApp?
According to the company, users will soon get notifications, alerts on WhatsApp itself. So for example if the airline you are flying in has a presence on WhatsApp, flight alerts, ticket bookings, etc could all be present on WhatsApp itself. Another example would be e-commerce websites, which might soon start sending order confirmation, delivery alerts, etc to WhatsApp, instead of as a text message.
Will the interaction with businesses, services on WhatsApp be end-to-end encrypted? Can someone else read those messages?
WhatsApp says all messages shared over services, business accounts will remain end-to-end encrypted, so no third-party like WhatsApp, Facebook or government agencies will be able to read them. However, if a business deploys a third-party solution or service provider for managing these WhatsApp chats, these service providers will be able to read them. Also, users won’t be able to delete a chat with the service or business. But WhatsApp will give users the option of blocking these services.
So when will businesses become mainstream on WhatsApp?
Currently the company is still testing, a free version of WhatsApp for businesses. It is also looking at how it will cater to the bigger enterprises. The company had earlier revealed that a small number of enterprises are part of the verification process. Right now this is a pilot program.
What about UPI payments on WhatsApp?
It has been reported that WhatsApp is looking at UPI payments as well and working on bringing this to the platform. UPI payments in India could add another dimension to the messaging app. However, there is no confirmation on when UPI will be rolled out in WhatsApp, though the feature has been spotted in the beta version of the app.
Why is WhatsApp looking at these businesses?
For WhatsApp this is one way of monetising the app. After all Facebook paid nearly $19 billion for the app, in one of the biggest technology deals in the world. Now with WhatsApp hitting a user base of more than 1.2 billion across the world, it will look at monetization models and get enterprises on board will be one way.