Facebook will soon enable businesses to start selling products within Whatsapp via Facebook Shop, its online store, which was launched in May this year to offer a unified shopping experience across various Facebook products.
The shopping tool is expected to be rolled out this year, along with a new message hosting service, which is expected to go live in 2021.
“Providing this option will make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to get started, sell products, keep their inventory up to date, and quickly respond to messages they receive — wherever their employees are,” WhatsApp wrote in a company blog post.
Shopping tools are not an entirely new phenomenon on WhatsApp. The app supports a variety of functionalities today, allowing businesses to not only communicate with their customers but also share QR codes and links to product catalogs, among other things. With its in-app purchasing support, users will not be kicked out of the app but will be able to make purchases using an embedded buy button to enable them to checkout within the app.
The move comes at a time when Facebook has been looking to boost its sales across its high growth platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp, which were bought in 2014 for $19 billion. The social media giant has, however, struggled to monetize them.
WhatsApp currently has nearly 1.6 billion active users but a meager 50 million business users most of whom are small businesses that use its limited free tools.
“The revenue is small today, by comparison to Facebook at large, but we think the opportunity is pretty big,” said WhatsApp’s chief operating officer Matt Idema.
According to Idema, WhatsApp’s hosting service would initially be offered for free to attract new customers to try out its enterprise tool, which currently charges 0.5 cents to 9 cents per message, Reuters reported.
Any business to customer interactions that are done using the messaging platform’s new hosting service would not be end-to-end encrypted, unlike the rest of the conversations that take place on the messaging app. Idema noted that the messaging data hosted on its servers would not be used for marketing and other business purposes.