São Paulo — Set to launch WhatsApp Pay for Business in Brazil, Meta Platforms Inc. (FB) might be having trouble closing partnerships with local payment processors, according to The Financial Times. This was reported after last month Meta’s senior director of partnerships, Kyle Jenke, was in Brazil to meet with executives from large companies that use this corporate solution.
“We have 120 million people using WhatsApp in Brazil. And they want to talk with businesses. Even in my driving from the airport I saw a billboard with “Zap” [Brazilian slang for WhatsApp] on it. When you look at the number of businesses in Brazil since the start of the pandemic that use WhatsApp to talk to their customers, it has more than doubled,” said Jenke, in an interview with Bloomberg Línea during his stay in Sao Paulo in March.
Brazil is one of the biggest markets for WhatsApp Business. Not surprisingly, WhatsApp is talking to partners to launch WhatsApp for Business in Brazil this year. But to be successful, Meta needs to overcome some barriers. The first one is the regulatory coordination with the Brazilian Central Bank. In June 2020, days after Facebook announced WhatsApp Pay in Brazil (the first country that would receive the service), Brazil’s Central Bank suspended WhatsApp payments asking for time to assess possible risks to the smooth functioning of the Brazilian Payments System (SPB) in terms of competition, efficiency and data privacy.
When the feature was first announced by Facebook, the idea was that businesses could access the payments feature through WhatsApp Business. It would require a new sign-up or a Cielo account on Facebook Pay, with updated information such as company registration CNPJ (Cadastro Nacional de Pessoa Jurídica), address, and bank account.
But when the service had been announced, Facebook said that businesses would not need to have an account at one of WhatsApp’s partner banks to receive payments and that each transaction would have a 3.99% fee, and the money would be transferred in two business days, with no limits on transactions. Customers who wanted to pay on WhatsApp would need to have a card issued by one of Meta’s partner institutions.
The first country to receive WhatsApp payments was India in November 2020. Meta was already testing the service there. In the same month, the Central Bank of Brazil launched its instant payments system, Pix. On March 30, 2021, the country’s financial authority authorized WhatsApp to have a payments initiator license. The re-launch of WhatsApp Pay came in May 2021, with due authorization from the Central Bank for payments between individuals.
Today, WhatsApp payments are done in partnership with Visa and Mastercard and the Brazilian payment processor Cielo. WhatsApp accepts cards issued by Banco do Brasil, Inter, Bradesco, Itaú, Nubank, Mercado Pago and Sicredi.
If approved by the Brazilian central bank, payments for businesses could be a way to monetize WhatsApp. Last year, card payments in Brazil moved R$2.6 trillion (more than $560 billion), according to the Brazilian Association of Credit Card and Service Companies (Abecs). Sought by Bloomberg Línea, the Central Bank said it does not comment on the progress of authorization processes.
According to the Financial Times, another possible roadblock to WhatsApp Pay’s launch for business this year is payment partners, who would not have accepted Meta’s terms or fees. Via a statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson said it does not consider the launch of the people-to-business (P2M) payments service to be delayed in Brazil. “We have offered person-to-person payments services in the country for almost a year and are excited about bringing this innovation to businesses. We continue to work collaboratively with local authorities and potential partners, and we do not comment on the details of confidential regulatory or commercial discussions.” Sought by Bloomberg Línea, Cielo said it doesn’t have a comment for this.
“We are really excited about payments, specifically on WhatsApp business API,” said Jenke, at the time. “When we talk to users, they want to talk to businesses just like they talk with their friends and families. Over half of the biggest businesses in Brazil are using WhatsApp to talk with their business today, it is a recognition of the impact that we are having.”
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In addition to payments, WhatsApp plans to launch a cloud API for large businesses this year, which should reduce costs for these large businesses to use WhatsApp, according to Jenke. “Today with the cloud API on-premise solution, our partners need to host the data on servers or they need to pay money to host it on AWS or Azure. What we’re doing is that instead of doing that, they can let us handle that piece,” said Jenke, during his period in Brazil.
WhatsApp has two different products for business. One is the WhatsApp Business app, which is free, for small businesses. Another is an API for large customers. For these, Meta recently changed its remuneration model. Instead of paying for each message, businesses now pay for each conversation (counting 24 hours of the interaction).
Jenke explained that Meta did this to encourage deep conversations between businesses and customers and generate a better selling experience. “Adoption has been very good, we have actually seen growth accelerate globally and in Brazil after making that pricing change.” In the US, retailers have not embraced WhatsApp Business as much as in Brazil, where Renner pays for the feature, for example.
It is on WhatsApp Business API that partners like startup Take Blip to create software to interact with thousands of people, as explained by Take Blip’s Chief Partnership Officer, Philemon Mattos, who accompanied Jenke to Meta’s headquarters in Sao Paulo. Take Blip works with conversational commerce, offering communication solutions between brands and consumers on messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger.
“These users are freer to use. If you call a call center and spend 10 minutes in a call center they will charge it. Paying for the conversation on WhatsApp makes everyone freer. You see a lot of people complaining about telemarketing. With WhatsApp, we can empower users to control the pace of conversation and what kind of conversation they want. In the call center, you have to keep on the phone, but on WhatsApp, you can talk to several brands at the same time,” said Mattos.
Next month, WhatsApp will hold a conference on messaging for business for clients, partners, and executives.