Facebook Adds Catalogs to WhatsApp – Another Feature to Milk the App’s 1.5 Billion Users

Rohail Saleem
Facebook WhatsApp Catalog

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It seems Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is growing serious about monetizing WhatsApp, the cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP service acquired by the tech giant in 2014 for $19 billion. In a blog post (read here) on Thursday, the company announced WhatsApp’s new feature that will facilitate businesses in better marketing their products.

The new WhatsApp tool, known as the catalog feature, will display the entire gamut of products and services that businesses offer. Previously, such businesses had to send product photos and provide merchandise information repeatedly to different customers. Now, however, this digital storefront will allow a business to add information – such as the price, description and product code – for each item in its catalog. This, according to Facebook, will facilitate greater customer engagement and improve focus on the ongoing chat without having the users visit the dedicated website of a business for product references. Moreover, when the users are ready to transact, they will be automatically directed to the website of the designated payment solution providers.

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The catalog feature, that marks Facebook’s latest salvo in milking its chat app, is now available to businesses using the WhatsApp Business app on both Android and iPhone in Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. It will roll out soon to other parts of the globe, according to the blog post.

Of course, Facebook’s flagship News Feed product continues to draw hefty advertisement revenue (read our related coverage here). In its third quarter earnings report, the company revealed that its Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) posted an annual increase of 19 percent to hit $7.19. This translates to $17.6 billion in revenue on the back of Facebook’s 2.45 billion users. The factors contributing to this tremendous growth include the fact that Facebook’s users have a greater tendency to click on advertisements as compared to users on other social media platforms. Also, this enhanced user interaction is driven, at least in part, by the company’s optimized algorithms that deliver the right ads to the right people.

Nonetheless, it now appears that the tech giant is ready to start milking its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms as well. In March 2019, Facebook added a shopping feature to Instagram that allowed users to click a “checkout” option on items tagged for sale and, consequently, pay for those items from within the app. Moreover, in 2018, the company announced that it would begin to charge businesses for sending marketing and customer service messages through WhatsApp. The rates for these messages vary according to the country and range from 0.5 cents to 9 cents per message. According to a WhatsApp spokesperson, more than 100 businesses are now using this paid product while around 5 million use the free WhatsApp Business service.

All of these developments follow Facebook’s overarching strategy of laying greater emphasis on private chats by increasing the number of bots and augmented reality tools. The purpose behind these changes, according to the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to encourage businesses to communicate with consumers through the tech giant’s various messaging services.

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