Facebook could allow businesses to send messages to WhatsApp users.
The tool — which is similar to one offered in Facebook Messenger — could be a new way for the network to attempt to monetise WhatsApp, which has traditionally steered away from traditional ways of doing so like ads and paid-for features. Though the chat service has grown rapidly, it’s struggled to turn that growth into cash.
“We think that enabling that B2C [business-to-consumer] messaging has good business potential for us,” said Facebook’s chief financial officer, David Wehner. “As we learn those things, I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of those things to WhatsApp, but that’s more longer term."
Wehner made the comments at a tech conference this week, and they were initially reported by Bloomberg.
Those features have already been integrated into the new version of Facebook messenger, which allows users to chat with companies about orders or anything else. Demonstrating the features earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed that users could now see an advert for a piece of clothing, pay for it through Facebook Messenger, and then receive a receipt and follow-up customer service through the service.
WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum said late in April that WhatsApp now had 800-million active monthly users. That is from its founding in 2009 and means that it rivals much more established social networks.
But the site has struggled to turn that huge user base into profit. Facebook said in its results in October that WhatsApp had made $16 million in revenues in the first half of last year, but lost $232 million.
WhatsApp is free to download and use for the first year, but then charges a $0.99 subscription fee.