WhatsApp users in India can now do their grocery shopping without ever leaving their messaging app. Meta today announced a new integration with JioMart that allows users to send “hello” to a specific number and be directed 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 there is no other app here. And for WhatsApp, that’s a big deal.
Meta believes business messaging is a big part of how WhatsApp will make money in the future. (Well, that and ads, but the ads thing gives WhatsApp some trouble.) “Business messaging is a real dynamic space, and chat-based experiences like this will be the preferred way people and businesses communicate for years to come said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, in a Facebook post announcing the partnership. The JioMart integration is part back-and-forth chat, part in-app browser, but includes everything from selection to payment to delivery within WhatsApp.
Ultimately, Meta wants WhatsApp to be a WeChat-style super app, which is an app that users have 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 take up so much of people’s lives is basically guaranteed to make a fortune at it, through payment processing fees, premium features, and — you guessed it — advertising.
No other platform has even come close to matching WeChat’s dominance, but with more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp stands a better chance than most. India is also the most popular market with around 400 million users in the country. WhatsApp is free, doesn’t require a lot of data, and runs on phones at virtually any price point.
JioMart, on the other hand, is an e-commerce company powered by Jio Platforms. Jio himself is part of Reliance, one of the companies responsible for the cheap phones and services that brought many Indian citizens online for the first time. (In fact, just today, Reliance announced it would spend an additional $25 billion by the end of next year to roll out 5G in “every city” in India.)
Ultimately, you should expect integrations like this to pop up all over WhatsApp. The company has worked on in-app shopping for the past several years, continues to push user-to-user payments, and is actively developing its WhatsApp Business app. WhatsApp wants to be an encrypted place to talk to your loved ones, but if it can also be a place to talk to your airline, grocer, hairdresser, and realtor, it can make both platforms even more powerful and an absolute gold mine. But without ruining the chat experience? This will be difficult to pull off.