Four months after WhatsApp announced that it would introduce tools for businesses, on Thursday the Facebook-owned messaging service officially rolled out business-specific profiles and a mobile app for marketers to manage their WhatsApp accounts.
The WhatsApp Business app is initially only available on Android and to businesses in the US, UK, Mexico, Italy and Indonesia. It will become available globally “in the coming weeks,” according to a company blog post, but it’s unclear if and/or when an iOS version will roll out.
Aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, the app offers relatively basic features. For example, marketers will still need to manually type their messages instead of automating conversations through chatbots. And the app only offers general analytics, such as how many messages have been sent, delivered, read and received.
Marketers can use the app to create business-specific WhatsApp profiles that can feature a description of the business and its category, as well as its email address, physical address (which will be shown on a map), hours of operation and a link to its site. WhatsApp will distinguish companies’ profiles as “Business Accounts” within its app. Eventually, it will add its own form of verified profiles, called “Confirmed Accounts, “once it’s been confirmed that the account phone number matches the business phone number,” according to the company blog post.
WhatsApp has taken into account that businesses’ phone numbers typically correspond to a landline, not a cell phone. Businesses can link their accounts to a landline phone number so that people can message or call a business using that number through WhatsApp.
The app will enable marketers to more easily manage their conversations with customers. Businesses can create welcome messages and set away messages when they are unable to respond. They can also configure so-called “quick replies,” in which a business sets a keyword shortcut that corresponds to a longer message so that it can type “/hours” instead of “We are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Sunday through Saturday.” Businesses will also be able to send and receive messages through WhatsApp’s desktop site.
WhatsApp Business marks the latest opportunity for brands looking to communicate with customers through the messaging apps those customers use to communicate with their friends and family. And its initial business-facing features mimic those of other messaging platforms, such as Facebook’s Messenger and Twitter’s direct-messaging service. While messaging has been slow to get off the ground for many marketers on those other platforms, WhatsApp offers a unique opportunity because it appeals to a more global user base that’s more accustomed to messaging businesses and people alike, according to agency executives.