WhatsApp announced features that help users locate companies from within the messaging tool as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to reach business and e-commerce users.

WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users globally. The organization recently announced that it’s expanding a tool dubbed ‘Directory’ to users in Brazil, the UK, Indonesia, Mexico, and Colombia.

The tool allows users to explore and find small local businesses in their area. The launch comes after WhatsApp tested the feature in São Paulo last year.

WhatsApp is also adding the option to search for larger businesses. Users can find companies by brand name and sector, such as banking, beverages, travel, and so on.

Becoming an e-commerce engine

During a WhatsApp-focused business event in Brazil, the company said that the ‘Business Search’ feature aims to help users save time spent searching for phone numbers of firms on websites and manually saving contact information.

The new features highlight WhatsApp’s ongoing efforts to transform the gargantuan messaging app into an e-commerce engine, one of the company’s most significant investments for generating cash from the otherwise free service.

In its quarterly earnings report last month, the firm stated that its click-to-WhatsApp advertisement business had grown 80 percent year over year and was on course to produce $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

Brazil’s importance

Brazil, the most populated country in Latin America, is an important market for WhatsApp. The platform, which has over 120 million users in Brazil, has opted to test numerous new commercial solutions on the Brazilian market.

Last year, WhatsApp launched a payments-to-merchant service in Brazil. The country was the first to receive the feature. In an unfortunate turn of events, the feature was recalled after the central bank stated that proper risk and regulatory checks were missing.

Tip: WhatsApp launches Communities, chat rooms for large groups