WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned instant messaging service, yesterday announced that it is to create verified business accounts, making official – and monetised – a practice that has long been employed by all manner of businesses.
In a blog post, WhatsApp explains that of its one billion daily users, "more people are using the app to communicate with businesses they care about". The post gives examples of "shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from a single smartphone" and shoppers "placing an order with a local bakery or looking at new styles from a clothing store". However, it's also noted that without a way of verifying contacts, customers are left unsure about whether or not the business is authentic.
With this growing trend, the company has said that it is going to trial new features to specifically tackle those issues of consumer confidence by creating verified business accounts. "We're building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks."
The post continues. "These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates."
In a brief FAQ post, it is clarified that WhatsApp is currently testing these tools through a "closed pilot program" and that verified profiles will appear with a green badge next to the contact's name.
One such company that is currently trialling the system is the Yoox Net-A-Porter Group. The luxury fashion retailer's personal shopping team has been using WhatsApp to communicate with its highest value customers (what it calls EIPs – extremely important people) for some time in order to offer a better service.
Gabriele Tazzari, director of research and development at the group, explains: "This happened entirely naturally. Over a year ago our Personal Shopping team realised that their EIPs were constantly on WhatsApp and preferred to receive product suggestions and complete transactions via the app, rather than to check their emails or log in to the service."
He goes on to claim that the retailer has sold a single item for over £80,000 through the service and that it has been experimenting with functions such as status updates. "Rather than sending customers individual documents and pictures of items, the team now uploads the items as status updates – allowing them to give their customers a real-time, selfserve shopping experience and comment directly on the items shown."
WhatsApp has presented interesting foundations for what can potentially become a game-changing way of dealing with customers, particularly in tech. System builders, for example, could use the service as a way of helping customers pick out their own perfect PC. With over a billion users it was only a matter of time before businesses looked to take advantage of WhatsApp and now we await to see just how successful the platform will become as an ecommerce tool.