Whatsapp has bigger plans than just being a chat platform with the launch of its WhatsApp for Business platform. This could tilt the scale of e-commerce and paymentsin India and a major revenue stream for the company that was acquired by Facebook for $21 billion. It is reaching out to businesses in India for its new product Whatsapp for Business that will enable the businesses to receive orders, send updates and even payments at a later date.
Still in its early testing stage, through it, businesses will have access to the 1 billion daily users of the chat platform, of which 200 million are in India. WhatsApp has a reach of more than 91% among Indian smartphone users on social media and communication platforms, says an eMarketer survey.
In India, Whatsapp has tied up with platforms like online restaurant platform Zomato, ticketing platform BookMyShow, and online medical platform, 1MG as their enterprise partners for pilots. Currently free to use, WhatsaApp is planning to charge businesses in the future, Whatsapp COO Matt Idema told TOI though he added that it has not figured out the business models yet. “The types of businesses that are part of our early pilot include e-commerce sites, retailers, airlines, banks, and more, said Idema. In addition to these businesses, the company is expanding the scope to several smaller businesses in the coming months,” he said.
“Many of our users already use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses. We hope these tools will make it easier for people to communicate with businesses in a fast and personal way. This is just the start and we expect to improve the products over time,” Idema said adding that the chat platform is available in 12 Indian languages and that will help it to be the preferred communication channel for as many people as possible.
1mg, an online pharmacy company has been working on the Whatsapp model for 4-5 months. For a business like 1mg’s which relies heavily on interactions with customers, Whatsapp becomes helpful, said Gaurav Agarwal, CTO at 1mg. The company first did an internal rollout 2 months back with its employees and has since then expanded it to 25% of their customer base.
“Many of our orders for medicines require a prescription, which usually means we get back to them via email or sms. Those channels of communication usually get lost since not all of them check their mails frequently. Whatsapp chats have a better response rate, said Agarwal.
BMS is replacing SMS messages currently used as the ticket confirmation will now move the conversation to WhatsApp. “WhatsApp has been heavily adopted across India. This obviously made WhatsApp our default choice when we decided to replace SMS as a ticket confirmation channel,” said Ravdeep Chawla, head of product at BookMyShow.
Idema said that the platform is taking measures to make sure that it does not become a channel for spam by businesses. “We have controls in the app that make it easy to report spam and delete unwanted messages.”
Currently, the platform can only be used for post-order processes. A business on WhatsApp will get a verified ‘tick” next to it, so that customers can identify the business from an individual. One a business gets verified, customers can contact them via their whatsapp chat platform through a given number. Customers can choose to opt out of these notifications or communication channel whenever they wish to.
Although there hasn’t been any additional changes to the interface, since it’s an end-to-end encrypted messaging platform, businesses have to download a software to deploy their service. In addition to this, there are extra use-cases like a payment option, and customer support that are being explored with WhatsApp.
The businesses are also looking at WhatsApp’s payments, which is now being tested using UPI platform. “Payments are one of the use cases we are working on with Whatsapp over. The option where users can buy medicines through it. Talks are still going out and we are figuring out the best model to work with,” said Agarwal of 1mg. With this, WhatsApp seems to be taking the route of WeChat, the most popular messaging app of China that is being used as a platform for shopping, browsing, hailing a cab and for booking services of any kind through the official WeChat account of businesses.
“This advantage allowed WeChat to rapidly gain market share to emerge as the second most popular mobile wallet in China. WeChat Pay commanded a market share of 37% at the end of 2016 while market leader AliPay controlled by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial commanded 55%. WhatsApp enjoys a similar position in India,” said LD Investments, an investment advisory blogger on Seeking Alpha platform.
“With WhatsApp building an e-commerce environment within its messaging app, it is not hard to imagine a future where Indian businesses begin accepting payments for their services from customers who would make payments using a mobile wallet from WhatsApp. This could enable WhatsApp to capture market share in India’s burgeoning mobile wallet space and possibly provide a strong revenue stream for WhatsApp going forward,” said LD Investments in the blog.