Author(s): Raghu Gopal
WhatsApp is expanding into the corporate world with a new business-focused app. The move will be welcome news to small and medium enterprises that have been using WhatsApp to communicate with their customers.
Last Thursday, Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced the launch of WhatsApp Business, its new stand-alone app intended for small companies. The aim of the new platform is to make it easier for businesses to respond to customers and create an official presence on one of the world's most widely-used messaging services.
WhatsApp originally revealed plans to release such an app in September 2017 and begun verifying business accounts as part of its WhatsApp Business pilot programme. Verified accounts were given a green tick to demonstrate their authenticity.
With the arrival of the app, companies can set up their profiles by filling out details including a business description, e-mail, address and Web site. WhatsApp says it will work to equip businesses with confirmed accounts, giving them a stamp of approval after validating their phone number — akin to Twitter's verification process.
WhatsApp says its new tool is optimised with smart messaging features to support quick responses to queries from customers. Businesses will also be able to access messaging statistics, such as the number of messages read, and also send and receive messages from a desktop through WhatsApp Web. These are vital features for customer relationship management.
WhatsApp competes in an increasingly crowded market that also includes Facebook's Messenger, Tencent's WeChat and numerous other messaging services. We believe that to remain competitive, WhatsApp will follow up with an enterprise solution for large organisations handling customers all over the world.
The service is initially available in India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the UK and US only on Android devices. It's unclear when it will become available for iOS users. The company plans to roll out the platform to other countries in the coming weeks, and, eventually, to have a version for other operating systems.
With this announcement, WhatsApp is keen to show businesses how its service can be used as a channel to reach consumers and enhance the customer experience, mainly outside the company. We believe WhatsApp also has an opportunity inside organisations as a collaboration tool with highly effective messaging and chat features for mobile workers. According to our research, both employees and IT decision-makers consistently list WhatsApp as one of the most critical apps for employees to deliver their work (see Security, AI and Microsoft Are Shaping the Digital Workplace). It remains to be seen if Facebook will pursue this opportunity for WhatsApp as it has done with Facebook Workplace.