As social media engagement increasingly shifts to messaging, Meta has already flagged its intentions to maximize business opportunities in messaging, including click-to-message ads and other direct engagement tools.
That push will also extend to WhatsApp, facilitating more businesses in the world’s most popular messaging platform. And on that front, today, at The first ever WhatsApp Business Summit in Brazil, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new update that will enable WhatsApp users to search for companies – by category or name – directly in the WhatsApp UI.
As you can see in this example, users will now be able to search for businesses in a dedicated element, accessible through the in-app search function. The search feature will include a mini-map so you can check out nearby businesses, along with category filters and verified business accounts, making it easier to access your various in-app shopping options.
As explained by WhatsApp:
“We’ve built business search in a way that preserves people’s privacy. What you search for is processed in a way that cannot be linked back to your account. For starters, we’re bringing the ability to search for a business to Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and the UK where people can find businesses using our WhatsApp Business Platform. In Brazil, search will help people find small businesses as well.”
That could be a big boost for businesses looking to use WhatsApp as a connectivity tool – and with WhatsApp usage on the rise, especially in the US, it could now be a much more important consideration.
Because as mentioned, people are sharing fewer updates to their social feeds and more to private DM groups. Indeed, Zuckerberg says that social feeds are increasingly becoming discovery platforms, and with that in mind, it may be that users are now more open to engaging with brands in their DMs.
At the very least, it’s likely worth adding WhatsApp as a connection option, and these new discovery elements, once fully rolled out, could also add more impetus to establishing a WhatsApp presence for your business.
In addition, Meta says it’s also expanding WhatsApp payments.
“Ultimately, we want people to be able to make a secure payment directly from a chat with their credit or debit card. We recently launched this experience in India, and we’re excited to now test it in Brazil with multiple payment partners. This seamless checkout experience will be a game changer for people and businesses who want to buy and sell on WhatsApp without having to go to a website, open another app or pay in person.”
India has quickly become a key region for Meta, with the growing market now home to more Facebook users than the US, while WhatsApp is used by over 550 million Indian consumers and increasingly for businesses.
Meta’s hope is that it can develop WhatsApp into an Indian version of WeChat, which is used for virtually everything in China, from messaging to commerce to paying bills. WhatsApp is already on this path, and the addition of more business discovery and payment tools will accelerate this, while facilitating new opportunities in other regions.
Worth noting, too, that Brazil is the largest user market for WhatsApp outside of Asia, with close to 150 million users.
But again, while WhatsApp is seeing more use in other markets, the broader growth of messaging has also seen it become a more significant platform in the US and Europe as well. In other words, the WhatsApp opportunity is growing, and it’s worth considering where it might fit into your branding strategy, as Meta looks to continue to build out its WhatsApp Business tools.