WhatsApp has announced that it is testing a new business directory in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that allows users to find local stores and services with a presence on the app.
The screenshots show how WhatsApp will display businesses sorted by categories such as “grocery store” and “restaurant”, before allowing users to chat with them directly. WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart revealed that the test will include thousands of companies in the city.
The announcement stated that the new feature allows users to find and communicate with stores and local service offices, such as the e-business directory (e-yellow pages).
The beta feature is still limited to one city in Brazil for now, but Facebook’s vice president of business messaging, Matt Idema, said India and Indonesia are among the candidates for future expansion.
Although the Facebook-owned messaging service is best known for being a person-to-person messaging service, e-commerce has become an increasingly important part of its offering in recent years.
As of last October, WhatsApp reported that more than 175 million people globally used the service to send messages to their WhatsApp business account daily.
The company has offered a standalone app for small businesses since 2018, and has since added features like support for product catalogs and shopping carts.
Like everything we do at WhatsApp, we’ve built this in a private way: we’re not logging your location or what businesses you browse.
— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) September 15, 2021
In Brazil and India, it has also started offering in-app payments, allowing users to make purchases directly from businesses, as well as send money to friends and family.
The changes were widely interpreted as giving WhatsApp the ability to share data from users’ personal conversations with Facebook, when in fact the changes only apply to chats with companies, which may see the data stored on Facebook’s servers.
The new policy sparked outrage, with WhatsApp competitors Telegram and Signal reporting an increase in new users in response.
In addition to the WhatsApp application for small businesses, the company also offers the WhatsApp Business application programming interface to connect large companies with customers.
It is worth noting that it is one of the few ways through which WhatsApp is monetized directly, since it does not currently display ads such as Facebook and Instagram.
Source: The Verge