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Grow Your Business Technology

WhatsApp Business Signals a Change in Business Communication

whats-app-smb
Credit: Alex Ruh/Shutterstock

WhatsApp Business is a new service for small business owners looking to connect with their customers. WhatsApp already boasts over 1 billion users, and the addition of a for-business account means SMBs now have another platform to interact with customers on.

The new platform, which is only available on Android, includes some new features like quick replies, away messages, data and analytics on conversations, and business profiles. The key question, however, is what value this new platform can add to your business. Depending on your customer base, it could be worth it to add another platform that's even easier and more convenient than picking up the phone and calling a business.

WhatsApp has more than 20.5 million users in the United States. Also, customers are gradually moving away from calling businesses – the emergence of online ordering, customer service live chat and online technical support have all become staples of the small business experience. Only 28 percent of consumers prefer contacting companies by phone compared to using the internet to find answers.

Based on these trends, WhatsApp Business may be a great new service for small business owners looking to make it easier for customers to interact with their business. However, this new version of WhatsApp may only be ideal for companies that already use WhatsApp to communicate. If you're a business owner looking to add a new service to communicate with customers, WhatsApp is a viable option, but there are significantly less users in the U.S. compared to other countries.

WhatsApp Business is the latest release in a flurry of new apps and services aimed at making interactions between customers and businesses easier. Venmo, the popular payment app backed by PayPal, recently released a for-business service where customers can issue mobile payments for both online and in-store purchases. New platforms are forming at the intersection of technology and business needs – small businesses now have more options than ever to connect with their customers.

[Related: Facebook for Business: Everything You Need to Know]

WhatsApp Business focuses on lowering communication barriers that could drive customers away from your business. By establishing a business account, small business owners will have the option to load in business information, like an email address, website, store hours, location or a business description. This profile, in addition to other info on Google, Facebook, and other social media sites, is a good source to provide users with the basics of your business.

WhatsApp Business has some additional features, like smart messaging tools that allow a business to save time with quick replies, greeting messages and away messages. There are also messaging statistics so you can analyze metrics and better understand what's working for your business. WhatsApp Business can be used on desktop or mobile.

Businesses that go through the confirmation process will be verified by WhatsApp so customers can be sure that all the information on your page is accurate and the interactions they're having are with your legitimate business. WhatsApp Business service is currently only available in Indonesia, the United States, Italy, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

WhatsApp is already being used by many businesses to interact with customers, but these businesses either operate abroad or deal with international customers and clientele. WhatsApp reported in a blog post about the new rollout that 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil say they use WhatsApp to communicate with customers.

There's a big opportunity for some SMBs in WhatsApp, but it's not clear yet whether these same numbers are comparable to U.S. small businesses. Despite more than 20 million users in the U.S., WhatsApp's popularity pales in comparison to other messaging platforms, like Messenger, another Facebook platform that has over 117 million users in the U.S. Based on WhatsApp's U.S. numbers, these new features will likely be used more abroad before they catch on in America.

WhatsApp Business is currently a free service, but introducing business profiles and other for-business features lays the groundwork for monetization. Matt Idema, chief operating officer for WhatsApp, said that the company intends on charging businesses for the account in the future. He didn't mention when this would occur, but the release of this new product is a clear step toward monetization for Facebook, WhatsApp's parent company.

WhatsApp Business is the latest example of messaging services accommodating consumers' desire to interact with businesses in a more convenient way. While WhatsApp Business will likely make a larger splash overseas, it's a clear indication of where customer service and interactions are going. Apple recently announced that it, too, would be bringing business-oriented features to its popular messaging system iMessage.

If you're a business owner already on WhatsApp, then this new business account comes with features relevant to your business. If you don't use WhatsApp and don't deal with international customers and clients, it may be worth it to hold out for other messaging apps to offer business-related features.

Matt D'Angelo

Matt D'Angelo is a B2B Tech Staff Writer based in New York City. After graduating from James Madison University with a degree in Journalism, Matt gained experience as a copy editor and writer for newspapers and various online publications. Matt joined the Purch team in 2017 and covers technology for Business.com and Business News Daily. Follow him on Twitter or email him.