WhatsApp unveils separate Android app for small businesses

19 Jan 2018

WhatsApp on Android. Image: Pe3k/Shutterstock

WhatsApp Business will allow companies to set up dedicated business profiles.

For the first time, WhatsApp is allowing companies to create business accounts in an effort to connect with their customer base in a more official way.

The app is currently only available on Android and is free to download.

Businesses can create profiles containing information such as a business description, email or premises addresses, and website details.

There will be a series of smart messaging tools within the app, including quick replies to provide fast answers to frequently encountered queries, greetings messages giving customers an overview of a business and away messages that notify customers if staff are busy.

Users will also be able to see which message types work best, as the option to examine messaging statistics is also included in the app.

The app will also work from desktop, and people will know they are communicating with a business as accounts will be clearly listed as such.

WhatsApp Business wants to streamline communications

The company added that, over time, some businesses will receive confirmed accounts once it has been corroborated that the business number matches the WhatsApp Business account number.

If users have a personal and a separate business number, both versions of WhatsApp Messenger can be used on the same device and registered with the two different contact numbers.

The app is currently available to download on Google Play in Italy, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico the UK and the US. It will expand globally in the coming weeks.

Chief operating officer at WhatsApp, Matt Idema, said: “What we saw was a need for businesses to have more efficient tools.”

Idema said the company does have plans to charge business account-holders further down the line but said it was too early to tell what form this would take.

Idema is a former Facebook staffer, and the social network bought WhatsApp back in 2014 for $19bn, attracted by its massive user base.

Regular consumers on WhatsApp won’t need to download any new applications in order to communicate with businesses and they will also be able to block business accounts, as well as report them for spam.

The firm said that more than 80pc of small companies in Brazil and India use the regular version of the service to grow their businesses, and the new WhatsApp Business offering will help simplify the process for everyone.

WhatsApp on Android. Image: Pe3k/Shutterstock

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