WhatsApp is introducing new Yellow Pages-like features to help users find businesses from within the messaging app, as part of the Meta-owned platform’s ongoing attempt to push deeper into e-commerce.
The encrypted messaging service used by more than 2 billion users worldwide said on Thursday it was expanding a feature called “directory” to all users in Brazil’s key overseas markets to help them browse and discover local small businesses in their communities. WhatsApp tested the directory feature in São Paulo last year before rolling it out nationwide.
WhatsApp has also introduced the ability to find larger businesses within the app. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that the feature, which is already rolling out in several markets (Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, and the UK), will allow users to browse businesses by category such as banking, food and drink, travel, and by name.
The company said at the 2018 WhatsApp-focused Business Summit that the feature, called “Business Search,” is designed to help individuals avoid spending time looking for a business’ phone number from their website, entering those details and These details are saved to their phone contacts. Brazil.
The new features underscore WhatsApp’s growing attempt to turn the behemoth messaging app into a commerce engine, one of its biggest bets to generate revenue from its free service. The company disclosed in its quarterly earnings report last month that clicks on WhatsApp ads grew 80% year-on-year and is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue.
“We want to make it easier for people to get more done on WhatsApp,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the summit. “Part of that is building better ways to interact with businesses. While millions of businesses in Brazil use it for chat, we haven’t made it easy to discover businesses or buy from them, so people end up having to use workarounds. The ultimate goal here is for you to be able to find, message and buy from businesses all within the same WhatsApp chat.”
Brazil, the most populous country in Latin America, is an important region for WhatsApp. The platform has accumulated more than 120 million users in Brazil, and has selected the South American market to test a number of new businesses.
WhatsApp launched a payment service to merchants in Brazil last year, a world-first feature for WhatsApp for a short time. It removed the feature shortly after the local central bank said it needed to carry out adequate risk and regulatory testing first.
Brazil’s monetary authority said at the time that its decision would “maintain a sufficient playing field to ensure the functioning of a fungible, fast, secure, transparent, open and cheap payment system.”
The encrypted messaging platform was approved to operate peer-to-peer payments in the country last year but said it was still awaiting regulatory clearance for merchant payments. But that doesn’t stop it from continuing to do some development work.
Payments giant Cielo, multinational Fiserv, merchant acquirer Getnet, payments platform Mercado Pago and credit and debit card player Rede have already built technology integrations with WhatsApp, with many participating in production testing, the Meta-owned unit said.
“If you run a business in Brazil, it means people will be able to find you, contact you and buy everything from you in one WhatsApp chat, and we’re working hard to bring this experience to more countries in the coming months ,” Zuckerberg said. “This is the next step in business messaging and I look forward to hearing about the opportunities this presents for all of you.”