Popular messaging app WhatsApp has just announced some good news for users. Having hit a billion users worldwide, the app is now free to use. The company decided to cancel its $0.99 subscription fee, having recognised that this “approach hasn’t worked well”. WhatsApp was charging a subscription in some countries, where users had credit or debit cards, but not in others. The company generated around $20m in revenue charging the fee.
WhatsApp mobile app
However, now that the company will no longer be receiving that source of revenue, it is opening the floodgates for businesses and brands to come on board. In a blog post, the company revealed:
Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.
Over 10m of WeChat’s accounts are official brand and business accounts, and 80% of its users follow at least one such account.
Similarly, Facebook offers business support for its Messenger app. Kik has been utilising bots to let users engage in automated chats with larger brands and game makers.
It’s not yet clear if WhatsApp will introduce advertising features or remain on the service provisioning end of its business communications support. Official charges to businesses have also not been clarified, though it’s likely that WhatsApp will roll out a fee.