WhatsApp is expanding into the business market, the instant messaging and voice over internet provider (VoIP) service company announced Thursday (Jan. 18). According to reports, it is allowing business accounts for the first time ever.
In a blog post published Thursday (Jan. 18), the Facebook-owned messaging app company said it is launching WhatsApp Business, a free Android app targeted at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). WhatsApp noted the new app will make it easier for small businesses to connect with customers, including its existing 1.3 billion users.
“People all around the world use WhatsApp to connect with small businesses they care about — from online clothing companies in India to auto parts stores in Brazil,” the company wrote. “But WhatsApp was built for people and we want to improve the business experience. For example, by making it easier for businesses to respond to customers, separating customer and personal messages and creating an official presence.”
Some of the benefits SMBs can see from using the WhatsApp Business version of the messaging service include providing useful information such as business description, email and store address for customers’ easy reference. The service can also help businesses save time, offer up quick replies to customers and provide fast answers to questions. What’s more, businesses that use the WhatsApp Business offering will be able to access messaging statistics, such as the number of messages read.
“Over 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil say WhatsApp helps them both communicate with customers and grow their business today,” the company explained, “and WhatsApp Business will make it easier for people to connect with them, and vice versa, in a fast and simple way.”
The business version of the WhatsApp offering is available in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., according to the blog post. Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp in 2014.