Watford Borough Council has announced a partnership with messaging app provider WhatsApp to support local businesses.
It said the borough will become the location for the UK’s first WhatsApp High Street, helping businesses promote themselves through the WhatsApp Business app.
The initiative will provide them with digital tools to manage challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as social distancing measures and curfews.
The company will initially provide training for 12 local businesses on Market Street in the town centre. It will then remain open for any others interested in the scheme.
This will take them through key features of the WhatsApp Business app, including the creation of: a business profile; a gallery of hero products and services; quick replies and automated messages; labels to organise customer messages by category; QR codes; and business related stickers to help communicate with customers.
Peter Taylor, elected mayor of Watford, said: “I’m delighted a global brand like WhatsApp has chosen to work with us on this initiative, which is the first of its kind in the UK. Local businesses are vital to our economy, bringing jobs and so much character to our town.
“We are committed to working with them to ensure Watford’s economy succeeds as we open up after a difficult period of lockdown. Digital skills and new technology are at the heart of our plans for the borough, which is why we are helping local businesses to adapt to the new circumstances we find ourselves in.”
WhatsApp makes it money from the app based on charges for some messages.
The announcement comes as new research commissioned by WhatsApp and conducted by YouGov of over 750 ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses in the UK reveals that almost two-thirds (65%) have experienced a drop in footfall to their premises since the pandemic first struck. Among those businesses which have seen a reduction in footfall, customer unease over social distancing is seen as the main culprit (43%).