Posted by Eric Frye & filed under Small Business Focus.

whatsapp screenshot
image courtesy WhatsApp

WhatsApp Messenger is a globally popular mobile app with over 1.3 billion active monthly users. This free app allows users to send multimedia, make free calls, message internationally, and chat in groups. WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, both former employees of Yahoo!.

In countries such as India and Brazil, as many as 80% of business owners now use WhatsApp to interact with customers daily (Source: Morning Consult study). To respond to the unique messaging needs of business owners, WhatsApp has officially launched its new WhatsApp Business. WhatsApp Business is available today and free to download on Google Play in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. No announcement has been made for iPhone release.

WhatsApp Business is essentially the WhatsApp version of a Facebook page. Companies populate a business profile with details such as business description, website and email address. And then the messaging begins! Once established on the WhatsApp network, businesses use a suite of tools provided by the app, similar to those found in Facebook Messenger. Automated greetings and standard replies allow business owners to chat with customers quickly on the go. Afraid of losing track? View app activity with messaging statistics.

Some business owners tell us that it’s difficult to type on their phone while at their desks. Good news for them! WhatsApp Business offers a website interface to type more efficiently from a computer instead.

While businesses need to use this new app to communicate with customers, there is no change for the general WhatsApp user. Everyone will know that they’re talking to a business because you will be listed as a Business Account. Over time, some businesses will have Confirmed Accounts once established that the account phone number matches the business phone number.

The app has built-in safety for both parties. For example, a business can only contact users who provide their phone number and agree to receive messages from the business.

I see the benefits to business owners and their customers…but what’s in this for WhatsApp?

Money, of course. Social media platforms are always in search of new ways to monetize. WhatsApp Business is a free app aimed at small and medium sized businesses. It is positioned as an initial entry into an eventual paid platform for large companies (think airlines and banks).

Early adopters: patience is required! The US consumer may only slowly begin to interact with businesses on WhatsApp. It’s a great time to populate your business profile and get ready to interact with international customers and early adopters. Android users, download this new app today!