Mobility

WhatsApp tests new business chat features, looks to improve customer communication

Businesses will soon be able to become verified on WhatsApp and more easily connect with customers, the company announced Tuesday.

On Tuesday, WhatsApp announced that it is testing new tools for businesses that will help them better communicate with customers.

More than 1 billion people use WhatsApp every day, the company said in a blog post. Over time, many people shifted from using the platform exclusively to stay connected with family and friends to using it to communicate with businesses. For example, shopkeepers use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from one smartphone. However, many people report that they are unsure whether or not businesses on WhatsApp are legitimate.

"In the coming months, we'll be testing new features that aim to solve some of these challenges, and make it easier for people to communicate with the businesses they want to reach on WhatsApp," according to the blog post. "Our approach is simple - we want to apply what we've learned helping people connect with each other to helping people connect with businesses that are important to them."

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The firm will eventually charge larger companies to use some of the business features, according to a Wall Street Journal report. "We do intend on charging businesses in the future," WhatsApp COO Matt Idema told the Wall Street Journal. "We don't have the details of monetization figured out."

Last week, WhatsApp started a pilot program for verified business accounts, offering a green badge to companies that WhatsApp confirmed that the phone number of this contact belongs to a business account. WhatsApp also lets users know when they start talking to a business via yellow messages inside a chat. If a user wants a business to stop contacting them, they can block the business.

Businesses want an official presence on the app, as well as an easier way to respond to messages, the post said. "We're building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks," the post stated. "These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates."

The features are currently being tested in a closed pilot program. WhatsApp said that it will listen to user feedback during the testing phase, and will keep users informed as the tools are made more widely available to businesses.

WhatsApp's business communication tool may compete with Google's feature allowing customers to contact businesses from Google Maps and searches, or Apple's Business Chat.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. On Tuesday, WhatsApp announced that it was piloting new features for both small and large businesses to help firms better communicate with customers.

2. Businesses will soon be able to get verified on the app, so customers know they are legitimate.

3. WhatsApp will eventually charge companies to use the business services.

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Image: WhatsApp

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About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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