WhatsApp Expands In-App Features to Help Users Search and Find Businesses • TechCrunch

WhatsApp is rolling out new Yellow Pages-like features to help users find businesses within the instant messaging app, which is part of the Meta-owned platform’s growing attempts to delve deeper into e-commerce.

The encrypted messaging service, used by over 2 billion users worldwide, announced on Thursday that it is extending a feature called “Directory” to all users in the key overseas market of Brazil, to help them search local small businesses in their neighborhoods and to discover. The nationwide rollout follows WhatsApp’s trial of the directory feature in São Paulo last year.

WhatsApp also introduces the ability to find larger companies from within the app. The feature, which is rolling out in multiple markets (Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico and the UK), a spokesperson told TechCrunch, will allow users to search businesses by categories like banking, food and drink, and travel, as well as by their names .

The feature, dubbed “Business Search,” aims to help individuals avoid spending time looking up business phone numbers on their websites and entering and storing those details in their phone contacts, the company said at a WhatsApp-focused business summit in Brasil.

The new features underscore WhatsApp’s growing attempts to turn the gargantuan messaging app into a trading machine, one of the biggest bets to generate revenue from the otherwise free service. The company said in its quarterly results last month that its click-to-WhatsApp ads business grew 80% year over year and is on track to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

“We want to make it easier for people to get more done with WhatsApp,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the summit. “Part of that is developing better ways to connect with businesses. And while millions of businesses in Brazil use it for chat, we haven’t made it easy to discover or shop from businesses, so people end up using workarounds. The ultimate goal here is to make it so that you can find, message, and buy a business in the same WhatsApp chat.”

Brazil, the most populous country in Latin America, is a key region for WhatsApp. The platform, which has amassed over 120 million users in Brazil, has chosen the South American market to test several new business propositions.

WhatsApp launched a payment-to-merchant service in Brazil last year, which was briefly a world first for WhatsApp. Shortly thereafter, functionality was scaled back after the local central bank said it needed to conduct adequate risk and regulatory testing first.

Brazil’s Monetary Authority said at the time that its decision “would preserve a reasonable competitive environment that ensures the functioning of an interchangeable, fast, secure, transparent, open and cheap payment system.”

The encrypted messaging platform, which received approval to operate peer-to-peer payments in the country last year, said it is still awaiting regulatory approval for merchant payments. But that doesn’t stop it from continuing some development work.

Payments giant Cielo, multinational Fiserv, retailer Getnet, payments platform Mercado Pago and credit and debit card provider Rede have built technical integration with WhatsApp and many of them are participating in production tests, the Meta-owned entity said.

“Running a business in Brazil means people can find you in a WhatsApp chat, contact you and buy from you, and we’re working to bring that experience to more countries in the coming months as well,” said Pile of sugar. “This is the next step for business messaging and I look forward to hearing about the opportunities it opens up for all of you.”

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