WhatsApp Launches In-App Shopping Features

Businesses can now use WhatsApp to message direct purchase links to customers.

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Need to Know

  • Businesses that use WhatsApp as a marketing tool can now message shoppers with links to products; shoppers can then purchase those products directly within the app.
  • The Facebook-owned chat platform will soon launch a new option for businesses to manage their WhatsApp messages via hosting services that Facebook plans to offer.
  • WhatsApp will charge businesses for some of the new direct shopping services.

Analysis

Encrypted chat service WhatsApp is making it easier for businesses to sell—and for shoppers to buy—directly through the app, the company announced this week.

In a blog post on its official website, WhatsApp is light on details on how the new shopping feature will work. But the functionality seems fairly straightforward: customers who message businesses within WhatsApp can be provided with links by business owners to products that are available for purchase online. The customers can then add the product to their cart, and purchase it directly within WhatsApp.

According to the blog post, more than 175 million people message a WhatsApp business account every day; the company also says it has conducted research that shows people prefer to message (rather than call) a business for help, and are more likely to make a purchase when they are able to do so. In addition, WhatsApp says it has recognized that the global pandemic “has made clear that businesses need fast and efficient ways to service their customers and make sales,” and aims to fulfill this need with WhatsApp’s new shopping tools.

In addition to the ability to purchase in-app, businesses that use WhatsApp will also soon be able to manage their messages via hosting services provided by Facebook and intends to expand partnerships with existing business solution providers, such as customer care platform Zendesk. Facebook owns WhatsApp; the company says it will begin to charge for some of its business-oriented services.

This is not the first major e-commerce initiative for WhatsApp this year: the chat platform participated in a direct-marketing campaign with Adidas earlier this year.

WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, has rolled out a number of improvements and additions to its in-app e-commerce features throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as more customers and businesses turned towards online retail. After launching a small-business grant program in May, the company unveiled Facebook Shop, a new commerce tab available directly within Facebook’s mobile app or via a web browser, in August; the tool allows shoppers to purchase directly from businesses without leaving the Facebook ecosystem. Similarly, Facebook-owned Instagram expanded its shopping capabilities to IGTV, Instagram Live, and Reels in October (Instagram first launched in-app shopping in 2018).

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