WhatsApp has launched a dedicated channel where companies can reach out to their customers, with airline KLM the first brand to sign up.
The new Whatsapp Business channel marks owner Facebook’s first effort to monetise its messaging app by charging large enterprise businesses for tools to better communicate with customers.
WhatsApp will also offer a free app to small-to-medium sized businesses, though it hasn’t outlined the specific functionality of the app.
The enterprise solution will allow global companies “to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates”.
“We do intend on charging businesses in the future,” WhatsApp’s Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t have the details of monetization figured out.”
The company did write that it wants to facilitate “someone placing an order with a local bakery or looking at new styles from a clothing store” and “shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from a single smartphone”, plus offer “an easier way to respond to messages.”
As the first brnad to sogn up, KLM will make use of the service to push a range of services directly to the phones of passengers including booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding passes and flight status updates. A customer service team will also be on hand to answer customer queries in 10 different languages.
KLM president & CEO Pieter Elbers remarked: “I am very proud that KLM is the world’s first airline with a verified WhatsApp account. This unique partnership with WhatsApp underlines our position as an aviation pioneer.
“We want to be where our customers are and, given the 1 billion users, you have to be on WhatsApp. With an account verified by WhatsApp, we offer our customers worldwide a reliable way to receive their flight information and ask questions 24/7. This truly is a major next step in our social media strategy.”
WhatsApp is keen to branch out from personal communications by embracing the corporate world, prompting it to create a pilot enterprise program in which businesses are invited to join the fold across selected countries over the coming weeks.
WhatsApp also officially announced its closed pilot program for verifying business accounts with a green checkmark to distinguish them from personal accounts and fakes.