Meta’s WhatsApp adds new AI features for businesses

Meta Platforms is adding new artificial intelligence features to its messaging app WhatsApp, including an AI assistant that can help businesses connect with customers, answer questions, and sell their goods and services via chat.

WhatsApp will soon test the new AI-powered assistant with businesses in India and Singapore, followed by Brazil. WhatsApp already includes an AI-powered assistant for regular users, but these new products were built specifically for businesses that regularly handle customer service queries and interactions. The new features will support more than 200 million businesses that rely on WhatsApp to chat with their customers, the company said.

“Any business should be able to quickly stand up an agent that can talk to your customers, provide support and facilitate commerce,” Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday when he announced the new assistant during an event in São Paulo.

WhatsApp, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, is particularly popular in places like Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico, where it’s common for people to chat with local businesses using the service. More than 120 million people use WhatsApp in Brazil each month, for example.

The company also plans to launch a version of its consumer-focused Meta AI assistant in Portuguese next month. Meta AI, which is powered by the company’s large language model known as Llama, can answer users’ questions across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Meta, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion, has been searching for more ways to monetise its popular messaging app. A Business version of the app is currently free, but offers some paid features. The company also makes money by charging businesses to send some messages to their customers, and by selling ads on Instagram and Facebook that link to a WhatsApp chat, called click-to-message ads.

Marketers will soon be able to create those ads using AI, the company announced Thursday. Meta is currently testing that feature in English-speaking markets such as the US and Singapore, with plans to expand further. Zuckerberg has previously said that click-to-message ads could generate $10 billion annually for Meta.

By Aisha Counts – Bloomberg

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