WhatsApp's Business app to charge for marketing messages, unveils new features

Facebook's WhatsApp messenger service will now charge businesses for sending marketing and customer service-related messages. The new move will be done through WhatsApp's Business API, which allows businesses to send notifications such as appointment reminders, shipping confirmations and event tickets.

According to TechCrunch, the new function will allow businesses to respond to messages from users for free for up to 24 hours. After that, the company will charge these businesses a fixed rate by country per message. A Reuters report said that the charge, which is at a fixed rate for confirmed deliveries, will range from $0.05 to $0.09 per message, depending on the country.

The Reuters report added that WhatsApp has also acknowledged it is "charging a premium" compared to SMS rates, with carriers usually charging businesses around or below penny per SMS even with fees collected by middle-men entities.

Marketing has reached out to WhatsApp for comment.

In line with the move, WhatsApp has expanded its Business app with three new communication tools for its customers. The move comes after the app had received positive feedback following its launch last year. According to WhatsApp, users had feedback that the new feature was a "quicker and easier" option to chat with a business compared to making a call or sending an e-mail.

As such, the platform is introducing three new tools. The first tool can be used when requesting for helpful information, as providing a mobile number on business websites, stores and/or app will retrieve the information directly to WhatsApp.

The second tool is a conversation starter called “click-to-chat” on websites or Facebook ads that will instantly message to the businesses. The last new tool provides real-time support on WhatsApp from some businesses in clarifying or resolving questions about its products and/or any issue.

WhatsApp added that this new approach aims to allow consumers to have full control of the messages they receive as it will remain end-to-end encrypted.

The move follows after the platform's parent company Facebook revealed plans to cash in on the continuing popularity of WhatsApp, according to the Wall Street Journal. This includes plans to charge companies for using some of the tools it has started testing on WhatsApp at that time, WhatsApp’s chief operating officer Matt Idema said in an interview.

During the initial launch, the new tools were free, allowing businesses to "verify" their profile to indicate they are a legitimate business. It also includes providing customers with notifications such as flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates.

Most recently, WhatsApp partnered with Zendesk to extend its customer support capabilities in a bid to increase the customer service interactions as well as provide an engaging platform for users. Through the move, Zendesk aims to help businesses around the globe put their customers first by managing inquiries using the WhatsApp integration.

Earlier this week, WhatsApp also added group calls for voice and video after it stated on its blog post that users spend over 2 billion minutes on calls per day.

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