Facebook’s retail push has birthed a new set of business tools built for the coronavirus era, this time in its WhatsApp messaging app.
Unveiled Thursday, the new features strengthen WhatsApp Business users’ ability to connect with customers. They can now share QR codes allowing people to quickly fire up a Whatsapp chat with the business, or post links to their WhatsApp product catalogues outside of the app.
The updates come as retailers contend with varying coronavirus guidelines amid a growing resurgence of infections in regions such as the U.S. and Brazil.
“As businesses across the world prepare to reopen and expand online, people need easy ways to get in touch with businesses to ask questions, get information or find something they might like to buy,” the company said in a blog post.
“To help them and the thousands of larger businesses on the WhatsApp Business API get discovered, we’re introducing new features to start a chat with a business on WhatsApp and see what goods and services they offer,” it wrote.
Consumer users recently got an update that allows them to use QR codes to easily add friends. For retailers, the tech company offered an example of a test case from Brazilian activewear brand Ki Mindful Wearing, which put QR codes on packages and product tags to direct customers in need of support to WhatsApp.
The Facebook-owned app, which breached the 2 billion user milestone in February, added that it now caters to more than 50 million business users. And its catalogues, which launched last year, now grab more than 40 million views a month. With these numbers and its latest announcements, WhatsApp looks ready to speed its journey into retail.
That should surprise no one, especially now. With COVID-19 laying siege to physical retail, brick-and-mortar’s loss appears to be e-commerce’s gain. Analysts believe that won’t go away anytime soon.
According to NPD Group, consumers have not only shifted more of their spending online, but many plan to continue even after the crisis. Citing a May 2020 survey, the firm noted that 26 percent of consumers “planned to shop more online at non-grocery retailers once social distancing restrictions are lifted,” compared to only 16 percent who planned to shop more in physical stores.
NPD Group believes these numbers and more should prompt retailers to improve their digital experience.
For third-party tech platforms like Facebook and its family of apps, that may simply mean signing onto one of their burgeoning shopping platforms.