Facebook wants to become the go-to partner for small and medium businesses that are relying on the internet to connect to the world and WhatsApp, particularly WhatsApp Business has been a big part of that plan. Currently, WhatsApp Business has 50 million users and WhatsApp has 175 million (2 billion users overall, as TechCrunch reported).
To make it better, Facebook has added three new features to WhatsApp Business –
One, they are launching a way to shop for and pay for services and goods in the WhatsApp chats itself. Two, they are taking on other hosting providers with a new product called Facebook Hosting Services that is going to host business assets and activities online. And three, Facebook is going to charge companies for using WhatsApp Business and there are different pricing tiers.
Many companies are already using WhatsApp to exchange product information and initiate transactions with customers. Added in July, one of the things that facilitate this are QR codes to share catalog links in chats. Alongside, Facebook has also been expanding on the ways businesses can display what they are selling on Instagram and Facebook with the launch of the Facebook Shop which happened in August following a similar product they rolled out for Instagram.
The new addition announced today will let businesses use WhatsApp to link through Facebook-native catalogs as well as other products and then allow people to purchase them while on the chat.
Facebook is going to let sellers add ‘buy’ buttons in other places as well that will take shoppers to WhatsApp chats to complete the purchase. The company said that they want to make it easier for businesses to integrate these features into their existing commerce and customer solutions.
This shopping button has gone live today, but it is going to come to India later.
Facebook Hosting Services
The new Facebook Hosting Services will be available over the coming months but the company has not shared a specific date yet. Facebook told TechCrunch that they are working with their partners to make the services available.
The idea of Facebook Hosting Services is not to take on the likes of AWS or Amazon Web Services, yet. It’s more about selling hosting services to SMBs (small and medium businesses) that already use Facebook and WhatsApp, and online hosting services for their assets (like online stores etc) or are looking for hosting services for the same purpose.
“Today, all businesses using our API are using either an on-premise solution or leverage a solutions provider, both of which require costly servers to maintain,” Facebook explained.
“With this change, businesses will be able to choose to use Facebook’s own secure hosting infrastructure for free, which helps remove a costly item for every company that wants to use the WhatsApp Business API, including our business service providers, and will help them all save money.”
Facebook said that they will share information about where data will be hosted once they are closer to launching the Facebook Hosting Services.
It added that it will share more info about where data will be hosted closer to launch.
To encourage more and better adoption, Facebook has not been charging for WhatsApp Business so far. It has charged for some WhatsApp Business messages though, like when businesses send a boarding pass or e-commerce receipt to customers over Facebook’s rails.
However, now, with more services coming in, and with more businesses basing on their profits and losses on how they are performing on Facebook’s platforms, the company is going to start charging. Importantly, the payments will relate to how businesses send messages and not how customers send messages to businesses. The latter will remain free.
There is no information on these payment tiers yet or when they will be rolled out – so this announcement is more of heads-up.