WhatsApp’s parent company Meta has launched its first-ever shopping experience on the platform in partnership with Jio in India. The new feature will enable consumers to shop from JioMart within the WhatsApp ecosystem.

The new feature will enable users to browse through JioMart’s grocery catalogue, add items to cart, and make the payment to complete the purchase without leaving the WhatsApp chat. 

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, Meta, said in a Facebook post: “Excited to launch our partnership with JioMart in India. This is our first-ever end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp - people can now buy groceries from JioMart right in a chat. 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.”

Closer to home in Southeast Asia, Meta also recently invested in Take App, a Singaporean startup which aims to bridge the gap for small business owners, and find an easy way for them to set up a simple website to facilitate online orders, replete with a shopping cart, payments and a direct connection to WhatsApp. According to TechCrunch , while the app focuses largely on restaurants, it also works with bakeries, grocery businesses and beauty salons, among others.

A recent study by Meta and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) also showed that in Asia Pacific, there is growing adoption of business messaging. According to the study, over 40% of people surveyed said they were messaging with a business more frequently than compared to the pre-pandemic period, with one in three consumers chatting with businesses at least once a week.

The study found that messaging is an integral communication channel for businesses and consumers with 90% of businesses recognising that messaging apps are important for success, and 80% of consumers plan to continue using messaging to interact with businesses. More than half of businesses say that they use business messaging for after-sales services, and currently, an average of 50% of businesses in the region said they use messaging to process orders and transactions.

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE , Ranganathan Somanathan, who co-founded consultancy RSquared Global Ventures, shared that people across the region are already using chat to trade their wares in their local communities.

“WhatsApp’s business account has been enabling businesses, both SME and large organisations, for sometime now to manage supply chain, enabling merchants to replenish empty shelves with demand and supply data flowing both up and down stream in the value chain. So behaviour wise, the Jio-Meta partnership enabling chat to cart is primed to take off,” he shared.

With regards to the data privacy of both the businesses and individuals, the messages continue to be encrypted end-to-end, meaning only the senders and recipients get to see the information. Somanathan shared that it is up to the business to laydown data management practices and comply with local laws.

“In my opinion, people in our Southeast Asia region are comfortable trading their shopping information, implicitly or explicitly, for convenience and value. As such, vast majority of consumers will take to this solution, as a duck takes to water,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Roshat Adnani, director of growth at M&C Saatchi Performance, said this is "a very strategic move" by Meta, the seeds for which were laid in 2020 with its US$5.7 billion investment in Reliance Jio Platforms. WhatsApp is deeply penetrated in India and is currently the non-official channel for a lot of trade through the unorganised retail sector, he said.

Adnani believes this will be a win-win situation for both parties where Jio gets a stronger hold in eCommerce and quick commerce. "For Meta, this will help in terms of enabling higher engagement and gathering more data points of their users. If successful this can become the 'WeChat' of India," he added.

Sandeep Joseph, CEO of Ampersand Advisory added, “When two of the world’s richest men collaborate they have the power to create some worldwide firsts. Such is the case of chat app-based seamless shopping for JioMart in Whatsapp.”

Meta, the owner of WhatsApp, is a minority investor in Jio, and now that its digital payments process is approved, it makes eminent sense to create a shopping experience in a chat app used by a major market such as India.

Joseph added that Facebook globally, has had “limited success in driving commerce” through its social networking platform, working more as traffic-generating path to e-commerce on sites like Shopee and Flipkart, rather than a source of completed transactions. “With the launch of this new service for Jio Mart, which was first tested two years ago, it seems the chat app could finally be able to monetise its sticky and addicted users,” explained Joseph.

“So far WhatsApp has not really pushed an ad-funded model aggressively, correctly avoiding clutter in its user experience. C-Commerce (chat-commerce) could be a game changer,” he shared.

While Facebook has been part of the TOFU (top of the funnel) and MOFU (middle of the funnel) for eCommerce clients, WhatsApp’s new offering could cannibalise Facebook. “But since it is slowly declining, it makes sense to shift its audience to a Meta-owned platform anyways,” he said.

He added that to launch such a feature in SEA would be of value for the platform. “Meta would not want to miss out on 600 million SE Asians, who are similarly chat- addicted. It’s just a matter of time, before it launches.”

Arvinder Gujral, global head of customers at WATI, said Whatsapp has evolved from a one on one private messaging to one-to-many group sharing, and has further evolved to individuals connecting consumers with their favorite brands and businesses. As such it has well gone beyond Whatsapp consumer to Whatsapp Business that drives better engagement, delivers better customer support and accelerates sales to Whatsapp Business API that allows companies large and small to automate, create chatbots for scaled operations, allow multi-agent logins

“Given the abundance of choice, if a functionality doesn’t deliver value, users will opt out and the results will be in front of all of us,” he added.

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