You’ll be able to buy stuff directly via WhatsApp soon – but normal use stays free

Business Insider SA
  • WhatsApp says it will let business customers offer the option to "make purchases right from a chat".
  • It envisages those businesses chatting to customers in much the same way a salesperson on a showroom floor would, then sealing the deal right in WhatsApp. 
  • Charging companies for that kind of service will help it build and expand the free services consumers use, WhatsApp says.
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Its business customers will be getting the option to sell stuff directly via chat, WhatsApp said on Thursday – and those in-app purchases will help keep its other services free.

In a blog post and accompanying video, the Facebook-owned platform envisages a system in which its business clients chat to their customers much as a salesperson would on a showroom floor, offering options and advice before sealing a deal, and accepting payment, right in WhatsApp.

"We also want to make it easier for businesses to integrate these features into their existing commerce and customer solutions," said WhatsApp about its shopping plans. "This will help many small businesses who have been most impacted in this time."

Facebook and Instagram have an increasingly sophisticated set of shopping tools, but WhatsApp has to date been largely a way for businesses to woo or service customers, before pointing them elsewhere for money to change hands.

Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp more than half a decade ago, and has yet to find a way to monetise it in any meaningful fashion.

"We will charge business customers for some of the services we offer, which 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," the company said.

WhatsApp charges businesses to send messages to customers, and recently threatened to vigorously pursue businesses who use its free-for-consumers messaging service to bypass those tolls.

In June it launched a wallet service in Brazil that offers free payments for individuals, while businesses pay a "processing fee". 

See how WhatsApp thinks in-app purchases will work.

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