In 2016, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum revealed plans to monetize the service through the addition of business chat features. The plan is to allow for a direct link between users and businesses but not to pursue ads.
The end-to-end encryption for messages between users was introduced to test business chat features. It was also announced that WhatsApp was working in close coordination with its parent company, Facebook, which caused a lot of users to stop using the service. If business chat is implemented, much more could flee.
Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Strategy Analytics, says:
It’s always a delicate balance when you mix consumer and business applications. On the one hand, it provides value to customers as they can interact with brands in the conversation — such as communications directly with a restaurant while discussing dinner plans. On the other, consumers don’t want to be overly pestered by brands, especially if they push ads that aren’t relevant.
The problem with this ambition is that there are preexisting services that already provide solutions for such problems. An automated response system may be incorporated and that would not turn too many heads, rather it would have people avoid it.
Another issue concerns privacy of existing users as in a study conducted by Verint, on 24,000 participants, it was found that 89% of people consider the security of personal information to be vital and 86% wanted to know third parties could access their data.
However, 80% of the people supported the idea of a tailored experience catering to their likes and interests, which is what WhatsApp could bank on if they continue with their current plan. This new format of customer-business interaction could be used as an addition to Facebook pages.