Labelled a ‘modern-day Yellow Pages’ by Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp recently started trialing its new business directory in Sao Paulo. Featuring. Users will be able to search within the app for nearby businesses, like shops and restaurants, and click through to view their business profile which might feature a list of products and services, menus and contact details. 

WhatsApp is hoping to roll the directory out to other locations shortly, so here’s everything you need to know about this new feature.

A little bit of background

With over 2 billion active monthly users, WhatsApp is one of the most used chat apps in the world, yet it has never run ads, unlike Facebook and Instagram. Pretty much the only way Facebook makes any money from it is through business interactions and transactions on the WhatsApp Business app. It makes sense then that Facebook might want to try and push the ecommerce side of WhatsApp.

"This could be ... the primary way that people start a commerce process in WhatsApp."

Not familiar with WhatsApp Business? Read more about the benefits of the WhatsApp Business app and how you can make it work for your business.

Is WhatsApp trying to reinvent the wheel?

Do we really need digital yellow pages in 2021? Mark Zuckerberg thinks so …

Here’s what the first screenshots look like:

Businesses will be divided into categories like ‘restaurants’ and ‘supermarkets,’ and users will be able to chat directly with them via the app.

Will businesses be able to pay more to appear at the top of the list? While not a feature of the trial in Brazil, we’d say it’s highly likely to be introduced once the directory is rolled out to the rest of the world.

What about privacy?

WhatsApp has insisted that the new feature will not be able to see or record the position of users or businesses searching within the directory. However, Facebook has had its problems in the past with data leaks and privacy breaches. Just last month WhatsApp was handed a fine of €225m for breaching privacy regulations. It’s very much a wait and see situation.

Ads, however, have not been ruled out.

"There's definitely a route on ads, which is Facebook's core business model, that over the long term I think in some form or another will be part of the business model for WhatsApp"

Is WhatsApp Businesss for me?

Facebook has been expanding its WhatsApp Business app since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, adding features like shopping carts and product catalogues, and it would seem like it has no intention of slowing down. In-app payments allowing users to purchase goods and services directly from businesses are already available in Brazil and India, and there are over 175 million users globally who directly message a WhatsApp business account every day. We don’t think it will be too long before we see it take off in Australia.

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