WhatsApp unveils accounts for businesses

The WhatsApp messaging platform appears to be inching closer to a viable revenue plan with all-new accounts for businesses available starting today via the new WhatsApp Business app.

According to the company, the app is currently available to Android users in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the UK and the US, but they’ll be rolling it out around the world in the coming weeks.

They’ll eventually have a version for iPhones as well.

The free software includes handy tools to help small businesses connect and chat with their customers. Users who choose to engage with businesses this way can continue using the regular WhatsApp without downloading anything new.

Users have full control over the messages they receive from brands: they can block a business number like they would any other number, as well as report spam.

Businesses can set an away message to let users know when to expect a response, create canned responses, record a greeting message to introduce their business to users and more.

Key highlights of the WhatsApp Business app include:

  • Business Profiles: Help customers with useful information such as a business description, email or store addresses and website.
  • Messaging Tools: Save time with smart messaging tools—quick replies that provide fast answers to frequently asked questions, greeting messages that introduce customers to your business and away messages that let them know you’re busy.
  • Messaging Statistics: Review simple metrics such as how many of your messages were successfully sent, delivered and read to see what’s working.
  • WhatsApp Web: Send and receive messages with WhatsApp Business on your desktop.
  • Account Type: People will know that they’re talking to a business because you will be listed as a Business Account. Over time, some businesses will have Confirmed Accounts once it’s been confirmed that the account phone number matches the business phone number.

“This is just the beginning,” the firm said.

WhatsApp intends to charge businesses in some form in the future. The service has no source of revenue after it dropped an annual subscription ($1 per year) in 2016. Both WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have ruled out advertising on WhatsApp.

Facebook is obviously attempting to leverage its services and customer base to monetize WhatsApp. Earlier, the company started injecting ads into Messenger and Instagram. They’re also testing the ability for users to cross-post their Instagram Stories to WhatsApp.