WhatsApp is testing a system which would allow businesses to talk directly to users, Reuters reported, signalling the firm finally devised plans on how to monetise its popular messaging app.
The tests are being conducted with companies which are part of the Y Combinator startup incubator. One revenue model will be to charge businesses which want to contact customers.
CEO Jan Koum had spoken about these plans in January 2016 when WhatsApp did away with its annual $1 subscription. He said the firm will look to B2C services for revenue generation, focusing on “commercial participation” which involves improving communication between consumers and businesses.
Examples of this included airlines sending notifications of flight delays, banks asking users to confirm their identity following unusual card activity and making restaurant reservations.
He added the company does not intend to put ads into the app.
Documents viewed by Reuters also reveal WhatsApp is looking into how to prevent spam, and is surveying users about how much they already talk to businesses on the app.
WhatsApp has not developed a business model in the three years since Facebook bought it for $19 billion.
While WhatsApp declined to comment on the report, Umer Ilyas, co-founder of Cowlar, one of the startups involved, said the trial is in early stages.
Cowlar makes collars for cows, which collect data that can help improve milk yield. The company wants to use WhatsApp to send automatic alerts from the collars directly to farmers, Ilyas said.
“It represents a huge opportunity, because in all the big dairy markets – India, Brazil, Pakistan – a lot of farmers have access to WhatsApp,” he added.