In a step towards e-tail, WhatsApp launches 'Catalog' feature for business

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen | Photo: Reuters
Taking the first serious step towards getting into e-commerce, WhatsApp on Thursday launched its Catalog feature for its business app, which will give small businesses a store front to showcase products.


Catalog is a mobile storefront for businesses to display and share goods or products they are selling, for people to easily browse and discover.


Previously, businesses had to send photos of products one at a time and provide information repeatedly. Now, customers will be able to see their full catalogue within WhatsApp. This makes business owners look more professional and keeps customers engaged in the chat without having to visit a website.

“What we’ve heard from small businesses that have tested the Catalog feature is how it’s helping them create a mobile storefront. For example, the owner of told us that the feature has helped customers learn about different colours available, know the prices, and view what the business offers. Similarly, Cupcakes by Isa, a sweet shop in Brazil, told us she can now post all her product information on WhatsApp without redirecting customers to her website. In fact, she’s considering not even having a website anymore,” said Amrit Pal, product manager at WhatsApp.


Small and niche businesses, and merchants are seen as the next wave of business users by tech majors such as Google and Facebook, and have put their weight behind building product features that make it easier for them to promote their businesses through online platforms.


In September, Google announced the launch of the Spot platform on its Pay app, which would allow businesses to create a store front directly within the Google Pay app. This was with a view to further support the growth of digital payments. Therefore, if a user wants to order food from a popular restaurant, the restaurant will be able to set up a menu that can be viewed within the Google Pay app.


As part of the early access programme, Google Pay users will already be able to use Spot of popular services such as UrbanClap, Goibibo, MakeMyTrip, RedBus, Eat.Fit and Oven Story.


The only piece missing for WhatsApp in the Catalog feature is payments. Its WhatsApp Pay feature, which has been in the beta phase for 1 million users since February last year, awaits regulatory approval.


WhatsApp is going to leverage its chat feature for Catalog. “Viewing a business’ catalogue is very easy. If the business has created a catalogue, it will be displayed on their business profile. People may either share a product/service from an individual/group chat by tapping on the “forward” icon next to the product or service images, or from the full catalogue itself,” said Pal.


WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India. WhatsApp Business is similar in look and feel to a regular WhatsApp account. Once a business downloads the WhatsApp Business app, it needs to provide a phone number different from any personal account, add a photo that represents the business, address, category, hours, email address, website, and a brief description.

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