Earlier this year WhatsApp announced its plans to launch a business feature and it is finally here! Many brands and companies have been using the messenger app for behind the scenes communications and connecting team members since the very start, but how will the new features help businesses communicate better with their customers? How will it be different from WhatsApp’s standard set-up?

Currently only available on Android devices, the WhatsApp for Business app is aimed at small businesses and is ready to download if you’re in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. or the U.S. The current service is completely free to use, with the WhatsApp team working on monetising its platform through targeting larger companies like airlines and banks in the future. With over 1.3billion users worldwide, the app’s opportunities to monetise are huge, so it’s no surprise that the app is following in the steps of its social media cousins.

As with Facebook, WhatsApp for Business allows you to create a company profile, listing all the relevant information you need to share with your customers: contact information, photos, opening hours and address. In addition to the usual call and messenger options, the interface also allows you to automate draft messages to save you time, similar to Facebook Messenger. This feature will prove especially useful for tackling all your FAQs with ease. The new app will also grant businesses access to Analytics that will help you hone your approach and learn more about how you’re performing.

Although not relevant to every business, we can see WhatsApp for Business being particularly useful for many retail businesses and events. It allows your customers to get in contact with you directly, giving another opportunity to convert before they even arrive at your business address or website. Whether, they’re booking a table at a restaurant, ordering flowers or checking the finer details of an event, this is useful for both parties. WhatsApp has also suggested that it will be implementing a verified business profile option, similar to what we already see on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, so that customers can interact with confidence, so watch out for this feature.

To protect users from spam and misuse of the WhatsApp for Business app, companies will only be able to contact customers who have given permission to share their numbers, just like the email marketing model. So, although it may not be the ideal platform for acquiring new customers, it definitely has its use for maintaining relationships and simplifying communication methods with particularly strong potential for dealing with repeat customers.

So, whether you’re already using WhatsApp or not, this is an exciting move for businesses who are looking for a more streamlined way of interacting with their customers. We’re looking forward to seeing how businesses will get creative with this new platform. Although, it’s unlikely that it will replace the big three, we suspect this could be just the thing that SMEs have been waiting for since the decline of organic reach on other platforms.