WhatsApp is bolstering its shopping experience for both merchants and users through a new feature called Flows, which will let users complete tasks such as picking a seat on a flight or booking an appointment without leaving the app.
Merchants will have building blocks ranging from a text box to a calendar and a seat picker to build these experiences. WhatsApp said these tools will be available to businesses in the coming months. A support page for Flows indicates use cases like booking appointments, product customization, logging into their accounts, filling out forms, and signing up for events.
The company said it has been testing flows with businesses such as Brazilan bank Banco Pan, retailer MagaLu, Lenovo, Indian travel service Redbus, India-based bank SBI, and car reselling platform Spinny.
“Shopping & e-commerce is one of the biggest verticals we want to focus on. The goal is to enable business messaging in a way that businesses and people can do a lot more right in the chat thread. We are trying to build rich experiences within the chat, and that’s where Flows comes in,” Nikila Srinivasan, VP of business messaging at Meta, told TechCrunch.
Srinivasan added that while Flows might be used by e-commerce businesses at the moment, WhatsApp wants to build rich experiences for other types of businesses as well.
Meta is not charging merchants for Flows separately. The company told TechCrunch that conversations with Flows will fit in under the current payment model.
WhatsApp currently charges businesses for conversations (interactions in a 24-hour window), which are categorized by marketing, utility, authentication, and service. So for instance, a request by the customer to book an appointment is likely to fall under the utility category.
The company is also introducing new payment partners for the checkout experience for customers in India — where WhatsApp has more than 500 million users. Last year, WhatsApp partnered with Reliance Jio for an end-to-end shopping experience, but customers could only pay through the UPI-based — Unified Payment Interface network —WhatsApp Pay without leaving the app. Now it has teamed up with payment gateway providers Razorpay and PayU so users can pay through other UPI apps, and credit, and debit cards.
WhatsApp business revenue depends on merchants having more conversations and completing transactions. With Flows and extended payment support in India, the company likely wants to encourage end-to-end shopping experiences in order to increase frequent business transactions.
Earlier this year, WhatsApp said that its Business app had crossed 200 million monthly active users. The company said today that it has also started testing the personalized messages feature for merchants, which was announced in June. The feature lets businesses send custom messages such as discounts or offers to select customers.