After being established on the network, businesses are free to use a variety of tools provided on the app. Source: Shutterstock

WhatsApp Business finally launches in select markets – and it’s free for now

AFTER much anticipation, WhatsApp has finally launched its very own business app in select markets including Indonesia, Italy, the UK and the US. And, in even better news, it is free… for now anyway.

Available to download on Android, the app is aimed at small businesses who want a seamless way to connect to their digitally-savvy customers. And with 1.3 billion users, the app is the perfect platform for consumers to chat with businesses who matter to them.

Small businesses can set up a WhatsApp Business profile by filling out information such as its business description, company email, address and website.

Users will know they’re talking with a business account as these will be listed as “Business accounts”, which will then becomeĀ “Confirmed Accounts” once WhatsApp verifies it.

After being established on the network, businesses are free to use a variety of tools provided on the app, including smart messaging tools.

Using these tools, businesses are able to send quick replies to consumers to commonly asked questions, greeting messages that welcome and introduce customers to your business, as well as the ability to alert your customers with ‘away messages’ if you’re busy.

Users will also have access to messaging statistics, including simple metrics such as the number of messages read. This will come in handy for businesses who want to see what messaging content seems to engage customers most successfully.

Users of the app are also able to send and receive messages from the desktop via WhatsApp Web.

Though businesses must download the new app to communicate with customers, the everyday WhatsApp user can continue using the general version.

But will this result in businesses spamming users with endless promotions?

Luckily for them, the everyday user can control this by reporting any experience of spam and will be able to block numbers and businesses.

Furthermore, businesses will only be able to connect with consumers who have provided their phone number and agreed to receive messages from the business.

Though WhatsApp Business seems to be initially aimed at smaller businesses, according to Tech Crunch, the app will in the future be joined by larger businesses – such as e-commerce sites and banks – with a global customer base.

This business move from the company is not surprising considering the masses of people who use the platform today. According to research by Morning Consult, over 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil reported the usefulness of WhatsApp in communicating with customers and growing their businesses.

Though not mentioned in the company’s announcement of the rollout, the digital communication giant has previously said it would charge for these enterprise tools. It is assumed these tools will be added to the current WhatsApp for Business product.

Though the company has prioritized Android after finding this is where businesses use WhatsApp more prominently, it plans to support other platforms such as iOS in the future.