WhatsApp has recently introduced its standalone app to aid small businesses to interact with customers efficiently by using tools to automate, sort, and quickly respond to messages. Called the WhatsApp Business, the app is available for free download exclusively on the Google Play Store in selected countries. Apple users will have to wait for a while as the iOS version of the app is expected to roll out soon.
The official launch of the standalone app is the result of WhatsApp for Business initiative announced first in September last year, which underwent testing with businesses like BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip in India. The WhatsApp Business app is available for free download in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the UK, and the US, and will be soon made available worldwide in the weeks to come, which is when we can expect it to arrive in India.
WhatsApp already has a vast 1.3 billion monthly active users in its hold, who will be able to communicate and connect with the businesses that matter to them using the new Business app. The customers can help themselves with useful information such as a business description, email or store addresses and website of the business they are interested in. The app is initially free, but WhatsApp has hinted its plans on monetising it in the future.
India comprises 16% of WhatsApp’s user base, with 200 million active users as per some statistics. The same figures also claim about 80% of small businesses in India and Brazil already use WhatsApp to connect with their customers and expand their business. In the new dedicated business app, a bunch of new features have been added to enable the businesses to add more information about themselves and respond quicker to their customers.
Similar to creating a business page on Facebook, the WhatsApp Business app will require the businesses to develop their business page, with information including a description of the business, store address and website along with contact information like email, telephone etc. The app allows for customizable messaging tools like quick replies to FAQs, greeting or introduction messages to introduce the business to customers, and automated responses to let them know you’re away.
For the general users, WhatsApp says in a blog post that, “people can continue using WhatsApp as usual – there’s no need to download anything new. And people will continue to have full control over the messages they receive, with the ability to block any number, including businesses, as well as report spam.”
A business account will need to be confirmed by WhatsApp, which will get highlighted with an icon, much similar to verified Facebook pages with a checkmark next to the name, so people would be sure that they are communicating with a trusted merchant.
With a vast user base in India and businesses including BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip on its side, WhatsApp Business is expected to be eager with its arrival in the country that can happen any day from now. However, the response of the small business and enterprise owners of the country is yet to reveal.