WhatsApp is acting on promises to turn its chat into a valuable shopping tool -- and it's using money as an incentive to make it a good shopping tool. The Facebook-owned firm is launching a programming kit that makes it easy for businesses to use WhatsApp messaging for info and support. You can give your phone number to a company to receive information like boarding passes and shipping confirmations, or use a click-to-chat button on a website or ad to start asking questions or get live support. The concept of using a messaging app for customer service certainly isn't new, but WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion active users. This makes business chat more accessible to a large chunk of the human population.
What is new is WhatsApp's strategy for making money from these services. The company is both charging WhatsApp Business kit users a "fixed rate" for notifications (like those passes and confirmations) and, crucially, charging them if they don't respond to you within 24 hours. As TechCrunch noted, it's a clever way of helping you as a customer while raking in some revenue. Businesses will have a strong motivation to respond quickly to your questions, and those that don't will pay a small amount. WhatsApp hasn't exactly been a cash cow for Facebook (it dropped the $1 annual fee in 2016), so this might just help the social network's bottom line without giving grief to everyday users.
Whatever the motivations, you might not have to look far to find companies using it. WhatsApp has been testing the framework with over 90 larger companies, including Uber, Singapore Airlines and Wish. It's easy to see this becoming a common feature for companies that expect many customers to be WhatsApp users. Given WhatsApp's frequent dominance outside of North America, that could easily make it one of the most common options for getting in touch.