By Katie Paul
(Reuters) – Meta Platforms said on Thursday its WhatsApp messaging service will introduce a commercial directory and test a payments tool in Brazil, as it bets on business messaging as a potential fresh source of revenue.
Brazil, one of the app’s biggest markets, will be the first country to see the new tools deployed outside pilot programmes.
“The ultimate goal here is to make it so you can find, message and buy from a business all in the same WhatsApp chat,” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a video shown at a WhatsApp summit in Sao Paolo.
The directory will allow users to find companies with business messaging accounts on WhatsApp, enabling easier access to customer service chats, Meta said in a blog post.
Users previously needed to add a phone number to their contacts or click a link on a separate platform to open a chat with a business. The company started testing the directory in Sao Paolo last year.
The directory service will be introduced in Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia and the United Kingdom as well via WhatsApp’s API, which mainly serves large businesses.
Partnering with local companies, WhatsApp will also test a payments tool in Brazil that would make in-app transactions possible with credit or debit cards.
A spokesperson for WhatsApp declined to disclose fee arrangements with the payments firms.
WhatsApp, the social media giant’s biggest app in terms of daily users, piloted the end-to-end shopping model with Indian online grocery service JioMart over the summer.
Aside from JioMart, currently only personal payments can be sent on WhatsApp and only in India and Brazil.
Boosting business messaging has assumed greater urgency this year as Meta’s core advertising business has stalled. The company experienced its first-ever annual revenue declines and last week laid off 11,000 employees.
Despite WhatsApp’s popularity, and its eye-popping $22 billion acquisition price tag in 2014, to date it has contributed only a sliver to Meta’s total revenue.
(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Nick Macfie)