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  • MaryGrace Lerin

WhatsApp Tests In-App Business Directory, Offering New Opportunities for Discovery

With the inclusion of a new local business directory to WhatsApp, Facebook is taking the next step in transforming the app into a vital connector for more services.


The new feature will allow users to select ‘Businesses Nearby' in their WhatsApp contact list, which will then offer them a list of active local business profiles in the app, as shown in these sample displays. Users would be able to access and view the business's full profile, which will allow businesses to exhibit their products as well as facilitate direct communication.


With WhatsApp already being the leading messaging network in many areas, Facebook has the opportunity to turn the platform into an eCommerce behemoth, powering the digital transformation in emerging countries and making WhatsApp the indispensable day-to-day utility for billions of people.


The model here is how Chinese chat applications have evolved into useful utilities in that region, with individuals using them to pay for everything from public transportation tickets to daily groceries.


Matter of fact, during the recent COVID mitigation activities, WeChat played an important role in managing people mobility and preventing the spread of the virus.

Focusing on this, Facebook has been attempting for years to make messaging apps a more central component in western nations, but most of its efforts have been unsuccessful. Messenger Bots, for example, were a major emphasis of Facebook's F8 developer conference in 2016, but they never gained traction, and other widely used aspects in China, such as QR codes, haven't been widely adopted in other places (at least until COVID came along).


WhatsApp, on the other hand, offers a unique possibility. Thanks to WhatsApp, Facebook is already at the vanguard of the digital revolution in emerging markets like India and Indonesia and will be able to actively influence user behavior from the outset, using a platform that is already on practically every user's mobile device.


That is why innovative eCommerce solutions such as these are so critical.

In a larger perspective, the feature will aid in business discovery — and with over 175 million people now messaging businesses on WhatsApp every day, there's a lot of room for growth on this front, making it a highly important addition.


And, if everything goes well, Facebook might be able to start making revenues on WhatsApp, which it obtained for $19 billion in 2014.

However, that is the next stage. WhatsApp is currently doing its first round of testing with users in Sao Paolo, Brazil. WhatsApp is used on a regular basis by approximately 93 percent of Brazilian smartphone owners, and with thousands of local businesses becoming discoverable in the app, the initial test pool should provide a decent indicator of how the process will work on a larger scale.


WhatsApp is careful to point out that the new feature was created with privacy in mind: "We're not monitoring your location or what businesses you visit." This is a key condition given the outcry to the platform's recent privacy policy amendment, and WhatsApp also states that it would examine a wider roll-out in the upcoming months.


It might not be a big deal for western businesses, but it's significant in Facebook's overall strategy, and it could help more businesses interact with more markets in the future.

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