WhatsApp launches brand new API for enterprise communications

3 Aug 2018

Image: Zamurovic Photography/Shutterstock

WhatsApp is launching new tools for its business customers.

WhatsApp has not been generating any revenue since its subscription fees were scrapped, but this is set to change with the introduction of the WhatsApp Business API.

How much will it cost?

The API is launching to allow businesses to respond to customer messages for free for up to 24 hours. After the 24-hour point passes, businesses will be charged a fixed rate by country per message sent thereafter. Messages will then each cost between $0.05 and $0.9.

Companies will be able to provide data and services such as delivery dates to customers via the new platform. As of now, businesses will only be able to communicate with users who have made first contact.

WhatsApp first announced it would eventually be charging for an enterprise solution when it launched its free-to-use WhatsApp for Business app. This app still remains free for all replies, even ones that arrive late, and is mostly used by SMEs.

WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19bn, but only with this feature could it become a solid source of revenue for the social media giant. The Business API could be viewed as a more cost-effective alternative to customer service call centres, allowing customers to obtain swift responses without the need to make a phone call.

In terms of privacy, WhatsApp said all messages between users and businesses will be end-to-end encrypted. According to The Wall Street Journalbusinesses will be allowed store copies of the messages elsewhere in a decrypted state.

Booking.com, Uber and Wish are among the companies already signed up to use the new API.

A new advertising option

As well as the Business API, WhatsApp also launched its display ads product. Businesses will be able to purchase ads on Facebook’s news feed that launch WhatsApp conversations between them and their customers. These chats are enabled by the Business API.

WhatsApp is also set to begin running ads in its stories feature – Status, which has 450m daily users – in 2019. As its parent company’s profits grow sluggish, WhatsApp’s journey towards revenue generation needs to begin showing results – and fast.

Paul Sweeney, executive vice-president of product at Webio, said: “In a time when Facebook has just lost $120bn in value due to concerns about its growth and increased regulatory oversight, messengers are seen as the path to future growth. For Facebook as a company, it simply has to make this work. It would be foolish to bet against them.

“With WhatsApp’s market dominance, we may even see companies paying Facebook to access their own customers. It’s happened on the main Facebook site, so why not here? Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram are three of the world’s most valuable messaging and communications applications, and Facebook owns them all.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects