Featured Article : What’s Ahead for WhatsApp?
Following the launch of the new business-focused WhatsApp Cloud API, we take a look at where Facebook’s (i.e. Meta) popular secure chat app is heading.
Last week, Facebook’s WhatsApp announced that it was opening WhatsApp to all businesses and developers with a new cloud-based API service. WhatsApp Cloud API, on the WhatsApp Business Platform, offers businesses secure cloud hosting services provided by Meta and the new API (application programming interface) allows apps to communicate with each other. This will mean that businesses can, for example, build-in a customised customer service chat feature to their website that uses a customised version of WhatsApp (built directly on top of WhatsApp), accessible via a dashboard, for the conversation. Previously, businesses had been set up on the non-cloud version, including Vodafone, BMW and KLM.
Easier, Faster, and Cheaper For Businesses
As well as making it much easier for businesses to set up a customised customer chat service using the trusted WhatsApp platform, Meta says that WhatsApp Cloud API will increase the speed at which businesses users can respond to their customers, and will eliminate costly server expenses for its partners, giving instant access to new features. Meta says that WhatsApp Cloud API will mean that business wanting to work with one of its 100+ partners or access the service directly, will be able to cut down the start-up time from months to minutes by using this new service.
Free Hosting, Pay Per Message
Although the hosting service is free, businesses will be charged on a per message basis, thereby giving Meta an opportunity to monetise WhatsApp for business users.
More Advanced Features To Come
WhatsApp also says that as the use of its Cloud-based API grows it will be adding more advanced features to help businesses run their operations beyond just a few people and further amplify their brand online. These advanced features will include the ability to manage chats across up to 10 devices to enable the handling of multiple chats, and a new customisable WhatsApp click-to-chat link to help businesses attract customers across their online presence. WhatsApp says that these additional, optional features will be offered for a fee in the WhatsApp Business app as part of a new premium service (full details yet to be announced).
Other Business-Focused Services
Other business-focused services recently announced by Meta also include:
– A ‘Recurring Notifications’ service (available on Messenger and also available for businesses on Instagram by autumn) to help businesses re-engage people in the right messaging thread, choose the topics that people can opt-in to, and how often customers can hear from the business.
– Communities on WhatsApp which will enable users to bring together separate groups (e.g., schools, local clubs, and non-profit organisations, and businesses) under one umbrella with a structure.
– Reactions – a set of six different emojis (a red heart, thumbs up, laughter, a sad face, a surprised face/wow, and a “thanks” emoji) that can be used in busy group chats, e.g. as part of ‘Communities’
– Improved voice messaging services on WhatsApp.
Business Communications & Integrating Facebook’s Apps
WhatsApp (Meta) says that times have changed and that customers need instant information and, according to its own 2020 survey, 75 per cent of adults “want to communicate with a business the same way they do with friends and family through messaging”. WhatsApp says that messaging and conversations are now, therefore, the primary way that people share information with each other and that not setting up an effective chat channel with customers could see businesses missing out on sales.
It is, perhaps, not surprising that WhatsApp/Meta would say this because it owns Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, and has long planned to find ways to consolidate and leverage the power of them by integrating them and making them interoperable, and by monetising aspects of them through tailoring offerings to businesses.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Most businesses are familiar with WhatsApp and may already use WhatsApp’s free services and the WhatsApp Cloud API may be something to tempt them into WhatsApp Business. WhatsApp/Meta has been expanding its businesses services, finding ways to tie its existing messaging platforms and hosting together to create new sources of revenue other than advertising. WhatsApp also needs keep finding new ways to add value and compete with competitors that grew over the lockdown period, e.g. Snapchat, Slack, and other business collaborative working and comms platforms. WhatsApp’s owner, Meta, is also re-positioning itself for the future with its ‘metaverse’ concept, escaping from past scandals, criticism, and the threat of closer regulation and finally trying to find ways to make money from and leverage the unique synergies and possibilities of combining and augmenting the messaging services and platforms that it owns. For businesses, Cloud API may represent a fast and uncomplicated way to set up a secure and scalable direct messaging channel (when the new promised features are added) with customers that could boost sales in a changing environment where fast messaging responses are now expected by customers. For WhatsApp/Meta, it is another step towards expanding its business customer base and the associated revenue stream.