Instant messaging service WhatsApp has launched WhatsApp Business, a new app aimed at small businesses looking to connect with customers.  The app is free to download (Android specific for now), and allows interested businesses to connect with companies and individuals on the WhatsApp platform.

The app asks for basic company information including a business description, email, company address and website to establish a verified profile for users to view.  “It also allows businesses to review simple metrics, such as the number of messages sent by their company that have actually been read, according to the company.”

The new app is the initial release of a larger strategy aimed at utilizing its entire 1.3 billion user reach.  According to TechCrunch, “The Business app will later be joined by an enterprise solution aimed at large businesses with a global customer base – like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks, WhatsApp had said last fall. It didn’t announce any news regarding this solution today, but in the past the company said it would charge for these enterprise tools.”  A market currently exists for these tools as, according “to data it cited from Morning Consult’s research, over 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil said that WhatsApp helps them communicate with customers and grow their businesses.”

WhatsApp officially launches its app for businesses in select markets