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WhatsApp adds shopping catalog feature, courting e-commerce

  • Published at 09:14 am November 8th, 2019
This photo illustration taken on March 22, 2018 shows apps for Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp on a smartphone AFP

Facebook has been trying to boost revenue from higher-growth units like Instagram and Whatsapp, which has 1.5 billion users

Facebook Inc (FB.O) has launched a catalog feature for its WhatsApp messaging app focusing the service’s e-commerce tools as it moves slowly towards monetizing the app it bought in 2014 for $19 billion.

Through a blog post, Facebook confirmed the news on Thursday.

Facebook has been trying to boost revenue from higher-growth units like Instagram and Whatsapp, which has 1.5 billion users. The company’s flagship News Feed product continues to draw big ad dollars, but is struggling to generate new users.

The move comes after Facebook added a shopping feature to Instagram in March that lets users click a “checkout” option on items tagged for sale and pay for them directly within the app.

The new WhatsApp tool stops short of that, as transactions still occur elsewhere. However, small businesses, the main users of the free WhatsApp Business app, can now display a “mobile storefront” showcasing their wares with images and prices.

A product manager at WhatsApp Amrit Pal said: “We are opening commerce as a new chapter.

“We hear from businesses every day that WhatsApp is where they meet their customers, rather than sending them to a website.”

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to shift the company’s focus to private chats, adding bots, and augmented reality tools in recent years to encourage businesses to communicate with consumers on its messaging services.

Last year, Facebook said it would start charging businesses for sending marketing and customer service messages on WhatsApp at a fixed rate for confirmed delivery, ranging from 0.5 cents to 9 cents per message depending on the country.

More than 100 businesses are now using that paid product, according to a WhatsApp spokesman, while around 5 million use the free WhatsApp Business service. Facebook did not disclose revenue from its business messaging efforts.

WhatsApp’s catalog feature is available for users in Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Britain and the United States, and will be rolled out around the world in the next few weeks, said the spokesman.