WhatsApp has rolled out a new feature in India where, for the first time, people will be able to browse and buy groceries and other household items without leaving the messaging app. The feature comes from a partnership between Meta, which owns WhatsApp, and Jio Platforms, which is part of Reliance Industries, a conglomerate of businesses including energy, retail, and telecommunications.
In 2020, Meta invested $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms, becoming the e-commerce company’s largest minority shareholder, as the deal helped fuel the social media giant’s push into India. The partnership could help put Jio at a more competitive advantage with online retail giants like Amazon India and Walmart majority-owned Flipkart.
The latest feature highlights the prevalence of buying items in new ways, in particular without leaving apps designed for chatting or other social interactions.
Chatting with businesses via messaging is prevalent outside of the US
Messaging between businesses and people as well as browsing products via WhatsApp have been happening for some time, particularly, in countries like India and Brazil. Meta bought WhatsApp for $22 billion in 2014. Four years later, Meta launched WhatsApp Business with tools that help small businesses message with customers. WhatsApp makes money by charging businesses for messaging users and when people click on a Facebook or Instagram ad from a business using WhatsApp. Meta has not publicly disclosed WhatsApp’s revenue numbers.
The idea is that the Jio partnership will build out the popular messaging tool for people in India. “Business messaging is an area with real momentum and chat-based experiences like this will be the go-to way people and businesses communicate in the years to come,” Mark Zuckerberg, Meta CEO, said in a statement.
Outside of WhatsApp, the entire experience of browsing and buying an item within a social media app can also be found with the Facebook Messenger app in Thailand and with Instagram in the US, according to the company.
Adam Landres-Schnur, a spokesperson for WhatsApp, said the company is looking to bring more end-to-end shopping experiences to more businesses in the future.