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WhatsApp ‘Carts’ could seriously harm e-commerce start-ups

WhatsApp’s new in-app feature ‘Carts’ is set to make online shopping easier for its 2 billion user base. Small e-commerce start-ups are real concerned.

Just in time for the holiday season, WhatsApp has this week announced plans to roll out a new in-app shopping feature called Carts which allows buyers to group multiple purchases into a single message. Tech really is all about convenience these days.

Those who keep up with social tech will be well aware that the instant messaging service already had an e-commerce arm called ‘Catalogs.’ Launching back in 2019, this update basically became the digital storefront for businesses to showcase their goods in one scrollable products page. Carts is about to take that principle and simplify the purchasing process even further for shoppers on WhatsApp by grouping huge orders into just one message.

WhatsApp’s popularity as a shopping service has taken the industry by surprise, with 175 million people using the Catalogs service every day as of late October. Add to that the addition of Carts and WhatsApp is all but set to rival Amazon, Walmart, and other key players of e-commerce for the attention of emerging markets like India.

Speaking of India, the nation currently represents WhatsApp’s biggest market by users, and one of its big emerging e-commerce start-ups DealShare – which just turned a fiscal profit of $21 million in a new financing round – actually earned its chops on WhatsApp before going solo.

It would be a cruel turn of fate if WhatsApp were to end up dominating the space DealShare is looking to target, but unfortunately that prospect is looking more conceivable by the day. A quick look at Twitter displays the level of panic setting in amongst independent ecommerce start-ups looking to grow their businesses. After all, when a financial powerhouse like Facebook starts throwing its weight around, what is one to do?

One big element is missing from WhatsApp’s overall shopping experience though, and that is an internal support for payments. As of right now, when a user places an order with a business on WhatsApp, both parties are left to figure out how money will exchange hands.

Establishing a way of adding in-app payments has been high on the agenda of the instant messaging service for a while, but to date, it’s been a real stumbling block – barring versions of the app in India and Brazil, where in-app payments are available.

Depending on where you sit, we’re looking at both good and bad news. For those who want to see economies thriving through a network of localised businesses, WhatsApp’s foray into emerging markets spells danger, but those who ultimately want the most convenient and seamless social media experience possible in their day-to-day lives are going to be all for the addition of Carts.

What side of the coin do you fall under? We promise not to judge.