WhatsApp begins testing a yellow pages-style business directory

WhatsApp is piloting a new business directory in São Paulo, Brazil, which allows users to find local stores and services on the app, the service manager said. Will Cathcart announced. The screenshots show how WhatsApp will display businesses sorted by categories such as “grocery store” and “restaurant”, before allowing users to chat directly with them. Reuters reports that the test will include thousands of businesses in the city.

Although the Facebook-owned messaging service is best known as a person-to-person messaging service, e-commerce has become an increasingly important part of its offering in recent years. Last October, WhatsApp reported that more than 175 million people around the world used the service to message a WhatsApp business account every day.

WhatsApp has offered a standalone app for small businesses since 2018, and since then has added features like support for product catalogs and shopping carts. In Brazil and India, it has also started offering in-app payments, allowing users to make purchases directly from businesses, in addition to sending money to friends and family.

But this e-commerce push created problems for WhatsApp earlier this year when it updated its privacy policy. The changes were widely interpreted as giving WhatsApp the ability to share people’s personal chat data with Facebook, when in fact the changes only applied to chats with businesses, which can see the data stored on Facebook servers. The new policy sparked an uproar, with WhatsApp’s competitors Telegram and Signal reporting an increase in new users in response.

Catcart said WhatsApp does not save users’ location or the businesses they browse when using the new directory feature.

In addition to its app for small businesses, WhatsApp also offers a WhatsApp Business API to connect large businesses with customers. It’s notable for being one of the few ways to directly monetize WhatsApp, as it currently doesn’t display ads like Facebook and Instagram. Although WhatsApp backed away from immediate plans to run in-app ads last year, Facebook vice president of business messaging Matt Idema said Reuters that “in the long run” he expects ads to be part of WhatsApp’s business model “in one form or another”.

Although the pilot is limited to one city in Brazil for now, Idema said India and Indonesia are among the candidates for expansion in the future.

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