WhatsApp begins testing yellow pages style business directory
WhatsApp is piloting a new business directory in São Paulo, Brazil, which allows users to find local stores and services with a presence on the app, the service manager Will Cathcart announced. The screenshots show how WhatsApp will display businesses sorted by categories such as “grocery store” and “restaurant”, before allowing users to chat directly with them. Reuters reports that the test will include thousands of businesses in the city.
Although the Facebook-owned messaging service is best known as a person-to-person messaging service, e-commerce has become an increasingly important part of its offering in recent years. Last October, WhatsApp reported that more than 175 million people worldwide use the service to send messages to a WhatsApp business account every day.
I am delighted that we are starting to pilot a directory of local businesses within @WhatsApp. This will help you find and contact local businesses, like your neighborhood coffee shop, florist, clothing store and more. Https://t.co/kNvUtn7FWR
– Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) September 15, 2021
WhatsApp has been offering a standalone app for small businesses since 2018, and since then has added features like support for product catalogs and shopping carts. In Brazil and India, it has also started offering in-app payments, allowing users to make purchases directly from businesses, in addition to sending money to friends and family.
Cathcart said WhatsApp does not record the location of users or the businesses they browse when using the new directory feature.
In addition to its small business app, WhatsApp also offers a WhatsApp Business API to connect large businesses to customers. It is remarkable that it is one of the few ways to directly monetize WhatsApp, as it currently does not serve ads like Facebook and Instagram. Although WhatsApp reportedly backed off its immediate plans to display ads in the app last year, Facebook’s vice president of business messaging Matt Idema said Reuters that “in the long run”, he expects ads to be part of WhatsApp’s business model “in one form or another.”
Although the pilot is limited to one city in Brazil for now, Idema said India and Indonesia are among the candidates for future expansion.