The Mysterious Business Failure of WhatsApp

Design Culture March 21,2023. 3 Min Read

By. Debopriya Bhattacharya

1,000,000,000- That’s the number of messages WhatsApp delivers every second. With 2 Billion active users and businesses, WhatsApp is the imperious commander-in-chief of messaging apps. Consider this- if there was a country made of WhatsApp users, it would be the most populated country in the world. Not only that, it’d be more populated than North America, South America, and Europe combined!

But, and it’s a big but, that the most downloaded app in the world is failing miserably in the business of Digital Payments. With less than 0.1% share in Indian market, WhatsApp payment service is virtually non-existent! And looking at how things are moving, it seems WhatsApp has accepted the loss against its compatriots like GooglePay, PhonePe, Paytm and Co.

The reasons? Well they are more nuanced than what would appear. Let’s nosedive into a baffling case of business blunders, and look at the 5 Ls of why WhatsApp is taking the L in digital payments.

Late Bloomers

“It’s never too late.” – Well sometimes it is. It took almost a decade for WhatsApp to realise that people send and spend a lot of money online. It's a joy.

But by this time, people were very comfortable using existing players like GooglePay, PhonePe, Paytm, etc. Nobody likes a futile change, and that was the first nail in the coffin of WhatsApp payments.

Lousy Advertising

WhatsApp messenger never required any advertising. In a world of dubious SMS system, WhatsApp messenger was a revolutionary (and free) texting service. But that wasn’t the case for WhatsApp Payments.

The hypercompetitive market of digital payments demanded aggressive and attractive advertising. WhatsApp lacked majorly there, and instead just kept up with its privacy focused ads. Result? Most people didn’t (and still don’t) even know that their most used app has a payment feature!

Leaked Love?

Ever since Mr. Zuckerberg arrived at the helm of WhatsApp, serious questions have been raised regarding its privacy. And for very good reasons. Accusations of data sharing among the Meta platform companies and data selling to third party apps are extremely concerning. It is natural for people to not trust WhatsApp with their personal financial information.

Legal Muddles

When WhatsApp payment was launched, it landed directly into a legal storm. It took them ages to get a compliance certificate. According to the RBI, it wasn’t fit for our country. Adding to the misery, legal issues with data security arose, leading to more troubles for the already scuffled service.

Ludicrous UX

Have you tried paying via WhatsApp? No? Good luck trying that. Paying via WhatsApp is a looooong journey. It’s not like Google pay or PayTM where you just open the app, scan QR and you’re done. WhatsApp’s UX design takes its own sweet time just to get you to QR scan option.

First you go to settings, and find a little tab of Payments from a long list. Then, you enter this weird UI screen where again you have to find “Scan QR Code” in a list. By the time you finish paying via WhatsApp, you could have paid in cash and reached home.

The Way Ahead

These blunders have nearly eradicated WhatsApp from the digital payment industry. Will it ever manage to make a comeback? Chances appear bleak as of now.

It’s clear that irrespective of the size of your current user base, if you don’t focus on UX and Branding, you can’t succeed. The hypercompetitive world demands a pleasant user experience, everywhere. And that’s something that we at SandCup Design have excelled across industries. Want to get your business transformed through design? Meet us here.

What do you think WhatsApp should do to gain people’s trust and market share in digital payments? Let us know in the comments.

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