WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for a massive $19B in 2014, which seemed just plain ridiculous at that time, as WhatsApp didn’t have any monetization and hence no revenue, and was running on VC money. But it instantly gave access to a vast user base of 1 billion that WhatsApp had at that time, which now climbed to more than 2 billion. Facebook didn’t monetize it immediately and kept the platform running for the next 4 years, without any revenue, while making significant feature improvements.
Eventually, in 2018, WhatsApp introduced WhatsApp business, its very first step towards monetization. This feature enabled businesses to interact with their consumers directly on WhatsApp. But this slowly turned into businesses spamming the users on chat with their marketing. To their credit, WhatsApp did allow users to block businesses, but businesses are bypassing this with multiple business accounts or turning their business accounts into a Go-To customer care center, so users can’t block.
Partnership with JioMart
In Reliance AGM 2022, held on 29th Aug 2022, the partnership of JioMart with Meta Platforms ( read WhatsApp) was announced, which they called End-to-End Shopping Experience. This has been in the pilot phase since December 2021 and is now rolled out to all users in India.
Users can now browse the entire catalog of JioMart products, add products to their cart, pay, and place their order, right on WhatsApp.
This is an extension of WhatsApp Business, where the business accounts will now enable users to order products directly from WhatsApp. And more and more businesses will follow suit and start offering their products and services for sale on WhatsApp directly. And it’s mutually beneficial for WhatsApp and businesses.
So why is WhatsApp going from a social messaging app to a social platform?
At the end of the day, the goal of a business mainly boils down to three things, get the customer in ( User Acquisition), get the customer to pay ( User Monetization), and get the customer to stay ( User Retention). WhatsApp has been doing the first and the third quite effectively all through these years, slowly building up towards monetizing the user. And this is one such way of doing that without heavily hampering the user experience, by doing other monetization methods like ads. WhatsApp can’t be free perpetually, as there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
And businesses are more than willing to pay for this, as it gives instant access to 50 Crore+ WhatsApp users and growing, in India, without having to get them to install their app or visit their website or their store. So WhatsApp is basically doing the User Acquisition for them. And it is frictionless too, as users don’t have to juggle between multiple apps or website tabs. Moreover, users are already on WhatsApp and are often engaging with the app through chat notifications throughout the day.