Meta’s WhatsApp makes Brazil a key test market for business messaging

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Meta Platforms said Thursday that its messaging service WhatsApp will introduce a business directory and test a payment tool in Brazil as it bets on business messaging as a potential new source of revenue.

Brazil, one of the app’s largest markets, will be the first country to see the new tools rolled out outside of pilot programs.

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“The ultimate goal here is to make sure you can find, message and buy from a business in the same WhatsApp chat,” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a video released during a WhatsApp Summit at Sao Paulo.

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The directory will allow users to find businesses with work email accounts on WhatsApp, allowing easier access to customer service chats, Meta said in a blog post.

Users previously had to add a phone number to their contacts or click a link on a separate platform to open a conversation with a business. The company began testing the directory in Sao Paulo last year.

The directory service will also be introduced in Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia and the UK via WhatsApp’s API, which primarily serves large businesses.

In partnership with local businesses, WhatsApp will also test a payment tool in Brazil that would enable in-app transactions with credit or debit cards.

A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to disclose fee agreements with payment companies.

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WhatsApp, the social media giant’s biggest app by daily users, piloted the end-to-end shopping model with Indian online grocery service JioMart over the summer.

Apart from JioMart, only personal payments can currently be sent on WhatsApp and only in India and Brazil.

Strengthening business messaging has become more urgent this year as Meta’s core advertising business has stalled. The company suffered its first-ever annual drop in revenue and laid off 11,000 employees last week.

Despite WhatsApp’s popularity and its staggering acquisition price of $22 billion in 2014, to date it has only contributed a fraction of Meta’s total revenue. (Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Nick Macfie)

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