Messaging platform WhatsApp has released its dedicated business app for UK users, offering a line of new tools to help small firms connect with customers.
Currently available for Android mobile users, the app features new profile and analytical functions specifically targeted at small business owners. The app is currently free, but WhatsApp is expected to monetise the offering in the future.
Owners are able to create a business profile with their existing number and display useful company information to customers, such as a business description, email or store addresses and website.
Companies will be “verified” in a similar way to Twitter’s blue tick model, with a green badge used to show legitimate businesses.
When rumours of the app were first confirmed in September 2017, WhatsApp chief operating officer, Matt Idema, outlined to the Wall Street Journal how the app could work in practice – offering an immediate line of communication between business owners and customers.
“[It could see] someone placing an order with a local bakery or looking at new styles from a clothing store,” he said.
Other new tools will allow business owners to send out quick replies to provide answers to frequently asked questions, with two new automated functions also on offer – greeting messages to introduce new connections to the business, and away messages to indicate an expected response time.
The WhatsApp small business app also offers an analytics function, giving access to metrics such as how many messages were successfully sent, delivered and read by customers.
“Our new app will make it easier for companies to connect with customers, and more convenient for our 1.3bn users to chat with businesses that matter to them,” read an official blog post on the app’s launch.
“People can continue using WhatsApp as usual — there’s no need to download anything new. And people will continue to have full control over the messages they receive, with the ability to block any number, including businesses, as well as report spam.
“Over 80 per cent of small businesses in India and Brazil say WhatsApp helps them both communicate with customers and grow their business today (Source: Morning Consult study). And WhatsApp Business will make it easier for people to connect with them, and vice versa, in a fast and simple way.”
A recent study found that fewer than half of small UK business owners are leveraging the potential of WhatsApp as a marketing tool, despite the messaging platform’s vast user base.
Of those using WhatsApp for business, the overwhelming majority agreed that the ability to see when a message has been delivered and read was a unique advantage over regular text messaging.
With instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp being a preferred method of contact for many people in the UK, more retailers are expected to use these platforms to talk to customers and streamline communications.
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