Facebook is taking the next steps to turn WhatsApp into a critical connection for more features with the addition of a new local business directory in the app.

As you can see in these preview screens, the new option can allow users to tap ‘Local Businesses’ in their WhatsApp contact list, which will then display a list of active local business profiles in the app. From there, users can switch and the businesses’ full profile, where brands can showcase their products, in addition to direct contact.

Example of a WhatsApp business profile

This could enable a number of new applications, and since WhatsApp is already the dominant messaging platform in many regions, there is the opportunity for Facebook to transform the platform into an eCommerce juggernaut, which can drive the digital transformation in developing regions and WhatsApp can make the essential, daily tool for billions of people.

If it can come right.

The template here is the way Chinese chat programs became functional aids in that region, with people doing everything from paying for public transportation tickets to purchasing their daily groceries, all through messaging apps.

During COVID’s recent mitigation efforts, WeChat has once again fulfilled an essential function helps manage people’s movement, and reduce potential spread.

Based on this, Facebook has been trying for years to make messaging apps a more central element in western regions, but so far most attempts have come to a halt. For example, Messenger Bots were the main focus of Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference back in 2016, but they never experienced a significant survey, while other commonly used elements in China, such as QR codes, were not so easily adopted in other regions (or at least it came to COVID).

But WhatsApp offers another opportunity. With WhatsApp, Facebook is already at the forefront of the digital transition in emerging regions such as India and Indonesia, which will enable Facebook to divert user behavior from the start, and via a platform already present on almost every user’s mobile device .

That is why new e-commerce tools like this are so important.

In a broader sense, the option will also help maximize business discovery – and with more as 175 million people which already sends messages to WhatsApp businesses every day, there is also a lot of potential in this area, which can make it a very valuable addition.

And maybe, if all goes well, Facebook will be able to generate real revenue from WhatsApp, which it is bought in 2014 for $ 19 billion.

But this is the next step. WhatsApp is currently launching the first phase of testing for the option with users in Sao Paolo, Brazil. WhatsApp is used by approx 93% of Brazilian smartphone owners daily, and with thousands of local businesses that become visible in the app, the initial test pool should give a good indication of how the process will work on a broad scale.

WhatsApp is careful to note that the new option is focused on privacy-we do not record your location or which businesses you browse.‘An important qualification given the setback against the platform recent privacy policy update, while WhatsApp also notes that it will consider a larger implementation in the coming months.

It may not be a massive consideration for Western brands, but it’s big in Facebook’s broader scheme and could ultimately facilitate the connection for more businesses to more markets.

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