WhatsApp is launching a pay-to-use advertising service for brands looking to engage their customers directly on small screens.
The move opens up a new revenue stream for the Facebook-owned messaging app since removing subscription fees in 2016 and allows businesses to send information or services updates, such as delivery information or tickets.
According to BBC news, the fee will be based on confirmed delivery, on which advertisers will pay between 0.5 cents to 9 cents (0.3p to 7p), depending which country the user is based in, meaning the service could actually be more expensive than standard SMS messages.
A key aspect of the update is encouraging dialogue between the business and consumer; responses to customer queries will be free if responded to within 24 hours, otherwise the advertiser faces a charge.
“Since we launched the WhatsApp Business app people have told us that it's quicker and easier to chat with a business than making a call or sending an email,” WhatsApp said in a blog post announcement.
“Today we are expanding our support for businesses that need more powerful tools to communicate with their customers.”
While the approach may sound a tad intrusive, WhatsApp says the service will be optional for consumers; “When you need a shipping confirmation or boarding pass, you can give your mobile number to a business on their website, on their app, or in their store to send you information on WhatsApp.”
Meanwhile, advertisers can feature a ‘click-to-chat’ button on their website or Facebook ad, allowing customers to quickly message them for information about a product or customer support queries.
Companies that have already adopted the service include Uber, e-commerce site Wish and travel comparison site Booking.com, while the company says it will bring on “a few hundred businesses”, with customer communications handled by specialist third-parties.
WhatsApp assured that all messages between customers and businesses will remain end-to-end encrypted, while businesses can be blocked “with the tap of a button”.
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