WhatsApp has announced plans to charge business customers to use its hugely-successful messaging service. With more than two billion users worldwide, WhatsApp is comfortably the most popular chat app on the planet. When it launched, the end-to-end encrypted service – which means the teams working on the app are unable to see or scan the contents of the messages being sent using the service – charged users an annual subscription fee to use the app.
However, following a high-profile acquisition from Facebook – for an eye-watering $19billion – back in 2014, the chat app ditched the subscription fee to grow its users. That’s something it has achieved at a staggering rate, however, Facebook is now looking at ways to recuperate some of that enormous initial outlay.
WhatsApp Business is the solution. Using the same technology that enables billions of people to send text messages, voice notes, photos, PDFs to one or hundreds of recipients in a group chat, WhatsApp Business is designed to replace the clunky customer service chat windows found on websites when you’re looking to track an online order, get a refund for something you’ve bought or enquire about a booking. It’s a separate app, but if you’re already using WhatsApp, you’ll be able to sign-in to chat to businesses with the same login.
Not only that, but in some countries, WhatsApp Business accounts have the ability to make sales within the chat app window too.
According to a statement issued by WhatsApp, the chat app has now taken the decision to “charge business customers for some of the services”. It says this decision “will help WhatsApp continue building a business of our own while we provide and expand free end-to-end encrypted text, video and voice calling for more than two billion people”.
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Given that businesses will be able to offer support and sales – using the same chat window that people are comfortable and familiar with – to some two billion people on the planet, that seems like it could be a very attractive proposal and a very successful business for Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“We’ve provided the WhatsApp Business app and WhatsApp Business API to help businesses of all sizes manage their chats. We’ve listened to feedback on what’s worked and believe WhatsApp can help make messaging the best way for consumers and businesses to connect,” the official document confirming the charges states.
It adds “our research shows people prefer to message a business to get help and they’re more likely to make a purchase when they can do so.”
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