Sept 15 (Reuters) – Facebook’s messaging service WhatsApp on Wednesday launched a new feature to make it possible to search for businesses within its app for the first time, the company told Reuters.

The test in São Paulo, Brazil, which allows WhatsApp users to find shops and services through a directory in the app, is the latest feature in Facebook’s drive to bolster ecommerce on its services.

“This could be … the primary way that people start a commerce process in WhatsApp,” Matt Idema, Facebook’s vice president of business messaging, said in an interview this week.

WhatsApp, unlike Facebook and Instagram, does not run ads in its app. Idema said previously businesses were promoting their WhatsApp numbers on packaging or websites or using Facebook ads to bring users into chats on WhatsApp.

The messaging service has increasingly courted business users, with a specialized app for small firms and an API, or type of software interface,…

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