On Thursday, Facebook said that its messaging app WhatsApp would be offering in-app purchases and hosting services. This will allow its WhatsApp Business users to sell their products via Facebook Shops to customers over chat. Facebook Shops is an online store feature introduced in May to offer a unified shopping experience across Facebook's apps.
It will also provide hosting services to small businesses through Facebook's partners in the country.
Facebook charges businesses for WhatsApp notifications to be sent to customers. With the new services, it will be able to boost its revenue and build an e-commerce infrastructure.
WhatsApp's chief operating officer, Matt Idema, said in an interview that the shopping tool would start rolling out this year, while message hosting would become available in 2021.
Idema said WhatsApp would offer the hosting service for free to try to draw new paying customers to its enterprise tools, which charges 0.5 cents to 9 cents per message delivered. Currently, its revenue from small businesses, which mainly use its more limited free tools, is relatively small.
In total, more than 175 million people interact with a business each day on WhatsApp, Idema said.
"The revenue is small today, by comparison to Facebook at large, but we think the opportunity is pretty big," he added.