WhatsApp users in India can now shop for groceries without leaving the messaging app. Meta announced a new integration with JioMart today, where users can text “Hello” to a certain number and be taken to an in-app shopping experience. The shopping experience looks pretty familiar, similar to what Instacart and other delivery services have been designing for years. But here there is no other app. And for WhatsApp it is a big deal.
Meta is convinced that business messaging is a big part of how WhatsApp will make money going forward. (Well, that and ads, but the ad thing is causing some problems for WhatsApp.) “Enterprise messaging is an area of real momentum and chat-based experiences are going to be the main way people and businesses communicate for years to come,”[ads1]; said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post announcing the partnership.The JioMart integration is part back-and-forth chat, part in-app browser, but features everything from options to payments to delivery within WhatsApp.
Ultimately, Meta wants WhatsApp to be a WeChat-style super app, the one app users need to run their entire lives. WeChat users can pay their rent in the app, buy concert tickets in the app, pay for food in the app and much more. Any platform that can consume that much of people’s lives is basically guaranteed to make a fortune in the process, through payment processing fees, premium features and — you guessed it — ads.
No other platform has come close to achieving WeChat’s level of dominance, but with more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp has a better chance than most. India is also the most popular market, with approximately 400 million users in the country. WhatsApp is free, it doesn’t take up much data, and it runs on phones of practically any price.
JioMart, meanwhile, is an e-commerce company powered by Jio Platforms. Jio itself is part of Reliance, one of the companies responsible for the affordable phones and services that have brought many Indian citizens online for the first time. (Just today, in fact, Reliance announced that it plans to spend an additional $25 billion to roll out 5G to “every city” in India by the end of next year.)
Ultimately, you should expect integrations like this to pop up all over WhatsApp. The company has been working on in-app shopping for the past couple of years, continues to push user-to-user payments, and is actively developing its WhatsApp Business app. WhatsApp wants to be an encrypted place for you to talk to your loved ones, but if it can also be a place for you to talk to your airline, your grocer, your hairdresser and your broker, it can become a more powerful platform and an absolute goldmine. Do you do it without ruining the chat experience? It will be difficult to achieve.