Businesses across the globe are trying to figure out how they can leverage WhatsApp Business for their brand.
Thing is, unlike many communication channels like email, WhatsApp Business is a little more complex.
In particular, WhatsApp Business;
- Has 2 levels of service, built to cater individually for Small and Large businesses. The features and capabilities across the two differ significantly. From the number of conversations you can have at any given time, to automations, to the number of agents/brand advisors who can speak with the customers using a single WhatsApp Business number.
- Has different setup, approval and management requirements.
- Offers the opportunity to reach and engage more customers on WhatsApp, using other channels, eg. Facebook Ads, wa.me link, onsite buttons, phoned based IVR.
- Has defined rules on when and what you’re able to message to customers, what kind of products and services you can use it for and how you engage with the customers across the lifecycle.
All this can be confusing for many businesses whether they are looking to use WhatsApp for commerce, marketing, or support..
And the biggest question most have is how the WhatsApp Business App differs from the WhatsApp Business API.
Today, we’re gonna run through the differences between these two service offerings so you’ve got all the information you need to make the right decision for your brand.
Whatsapp Business App vs Whatsapp Business API
I’ll start by summing this up in two sentences.
The WhatsApp Business App is intended for small businesses whose primary need is to communicate 1-on-1 with their customers.
The WhatsApp Business API is for larger brands (Enterprise level) who need a full business suite that integrates seamlessly with their other channels and data.
If you need a little more detail, here’s an example of how each might be used in real terms.
WhatsApp Business App Use Case Example
WhatsApp Business App is quite simply a free-to-download mobile app. It can be downloaded and used by anyone who owns their own small business.
It is the perfect option for a small, local operation that doesn’t require complex business processes or doesn’t field multiple service requests every single day, but who still to give their customers a personalised and easy way to interact with their business.
The aim of the app is to give you a more direct, immediate line to your customers.
It’s best to think of it as a communication channel for local business. Something that will allow them to offer better service to their clientele.
If you already have a number you are using to speak with your customers you can easily convert it into a business account by following the below steps:
- Download the WhatsApp Business app.
- Verify your business phone number.
- Restore your account from a backup, if you wish.
- Set your business name.
- Build your profile by heading to the options tab within the app.
However there are few things you should be mindful of when you migrate your usual WhatsApp number to a WhatsApp Business account;
- You’ll be logged out of regular WhatsApp and will only be able to use the Business App. You can continue to use both WhatsApp Messenger and WhatsApp Business Apps on the same mobile but only if you are using different numbers for each.
- All chats and media you had before migrating to WhatsApp Business will be saved, but make sure you’ve backed up your messages before you start the migration, otherwise you may lose some recent conversations.
- If you decide to move back your number to WhatsApp Messenger, you’d need to delete your WhatsApp Business Account first from the Settings > Account section. Also, in this case your WhatsApp Business chat history won’t be moved back to the WhatsApp Messenger App or to another number if you move your Business account to a new contact number.
But that’s hardly a rough deal. You get four major benefits by making the change;
- Better serve mobile-first internet users. These people are the majority of the younger market today and connecting with them through mobile means you’ve more opportunities to converse and convert.
- It’s way more personal. For the small local store who remembers everyone’s face and name, it’s the next step in building those 1-1 relationships.
- It massively improves your reachability for customers without the time and financial for listing on a marketplace. Most people have WhatsApp. To get in touch with you all they need to do is save your number and send you a quick message.
- More credibility and trust. When a customer connects with you they immediately see they’re interacting with a verified business account, which includes your business details such as address and website. It offers a level of assurance they’re engaging with someone they can trust.
Here’s how the WhatsApp Business App might work in real life.
Imagine you run a local dry cleaner.
The primary questions you get from your customers include;
- Your opening hours
- Information on prices
- Whether or not their item is ready for pickup
You can use the features within WhatsApp’s Business App to quickly handle all of the above.
1 – Business Profile: You can list your company name, business category, a description about your business, your email and up to 2 websites associated with your business.
2 – Operating hours: Your Business App profile will list your opening hours and location so you’ll no longer have to field questions about whether or not you’re open.
3 – Away Messages: You can also set up an automated response for non-working hours, letting your customers know your office hours and when they can expect a response for you – which besides being the most professional thing to do, also reassures them that you’ll get to their messages soon.
4 – Greeting Messages: You can also set an automated message to greet a customer when they first message you on WhatsApp – you can use this as an opportunity to explain more about your business or guide them to ask specific questions about your products or services.
5 – Quick Replies: A lot of customers may ask you some standard questions. If you get a lot of these messages at the same time, it can be overwhelming to type the replies individually for each conversation. With quick replies can set up template answers to respond to questions like “how much to get a man’s suit dry cleaned?” with a single click of a button.
6 – Catalog: WhatsApp Business additionally offers the opportunity to list all your products or services with their pictures, prices, description, web links, and their codes, right in your WhatsApp profile. Think of it like a mini store listing within WhatsApp – customers can quickly browse through your product and services, click out to your website or message you the product code to make the purchase.
Bonus hack: If you’re not sharing any products or services, you can also use this section to highlight information about your business, eg awards, accreditations, customer testimonials etc. by adding each highlight as a product.
Having said that, do note WhatsApp individually verifies each product or service you list and you should be careful to not violate their policies and list products or services which are considered illegal.
7 – Labels: You may be addressing multiple kinds of conversations and customer segments, making it harder to find a customer when you need to get back to them. To solve this WhatsApp Business offers labels to help you organise your customers and chats.
You’re able to create and use up to 20 labels, each with a different color for faster identification.
The labels you create can be applied to an entire chat, or a singular message within a chat.
8 – Create a broadcast list from labels. With the labels you’ve set up you’re able to create broadcast lists.
These lists will enable you to send a specific message to that particular segment.
Let’s return to the dry cleaner example. You could send a message about a special offer on wash and fold to those you’ve labelled after they’ve used the service in the past.
And at the same time, let only those who have suits in for dry cleaning know there’s a minor delay and to add 1 day to their pickup time.
Labels are best viewed as simple segmentation, allowing you to send relevant messages to specific cohorts.
9 – Statistics. Knowing how your messages are being received and the kind of business results they’re driving is key to optimising your future efforts.
With the WhatsApp Business App you get access to stats including messages sent, delivered, received, and read to help you improve your next campaign.
It goes without saying that, despite all the above settings, you’d still have a lot of customers who would have questions.
Questions that can’t be answered with a canned response – like when a certain item will be ready. But fear not because you’re able to pick up your phone and manually respond to these questions as and when they come through.
But it does come with some limits.
For example, only a single person can access the business account through the WhatsApp Business App.
You could have another person manage conversations by using WhatsApp web on your laptop – but that’s pretty much it!
With only 2 potential agents, you’re very much limited in the number of messages you’ll be able to handle.
The WhatsApp business account also comes with limits on how many people you can engage with or send outbound messages to on any given day.
Any amount of scale or automation you need beyond these can only be addressed through WhatsApp Business API – if you already have an estimate that you’ll have more than 300 active users and looking to send outbound messages to them on a regular basis, head straight to the WhatsApp Business API section below to understand how you can implement it for your business.
WhatsApp Business API Use Case Example
The WhatsApp Business API is a far more robust offering intended for mature brands.
With extensive integrations, WhatsApp Business API is a communication channel that could rival most brand’s email marketing.
You shouldn’t think of this as something that could solve a small, specific issue in your business.
There are 2 primary ways you can use WhatsApp Business API to communicate with customers at scale.
- 1-to-1 conversations. Conversations started by customers which are free of cost if sent within 24-hours of their last message to you.
- Notifications. Business initiated paid template messages that can be sent at anytime to customers who have opted in through email, website, app, or IVR. These notifications include things like delivery updates.
Unlike WhatsApp’s Business App, the WhatsApp Business API offers a lot more to help you operate at scale and handle huge volumes of customer conversations across the customer lifecycle.
For example, with the WhatsApp Business API you’re able to;
- Setup a large volume of automated responses allowing immediate responses to frequent customer queries.
- Setup conversational flows and chatbots to qualify high value leads, drive product consideration, or self-serve services for placing orders, scheduling appointments, finding store locations, requesting refunds, cancelling orders, etc.
- Use NLP to better understand the different contexts, phrases and grammatical errors that may happen when someone types naturally.
- Route and escalate conversations to human or bots – depending on the complexity and scale required.
- Seamlessly handle conversations between human brand advisors and automations.
- Enable any size of human associates to manage customers conversation through 1 WhatsApp number and a central chat dashboard/app.
- Integrate with your backend systems for ticketing, knowledge base, and CRM.
- Integrate with booking backend systems for order management, shipping management, payment gateways, appointment management, POS systems and more.
- Send important and timely notifications during your customer’s path to purchase, order confirmation, shipping updates, appointment updates, account updates, issue resolutions and OTP verifications.
- Automate important moments in the customer journey such as retrieving receipts, make additional purchases, use coupons, check and redeem loyalty rewards.
- Monitor response to your notification to communicate with and convert high-intent customers.
WhatsApp can prove to be a significant channel for every team in your company.
While it requires just as much interest, time, and investment as a social media campaign, phone customer support, or email marketing, it can also offer more value for your business.
Here’s a few potential use cases.
Let’s imagine you run a mature business, it could be a retail brand, a fast food chain, an automobile company, or financial services firm.
Depending on your industry, your customer lifecycle might involve addressing dozens of pre-sales queries, sending timely updates, and solving hundreds of customer service requests every day at a minimum.
Your customer may have multiple touch points in their life cycle where a conversation could potentially help them get an assurance and make a decision favourable to your business. These interactions could range from;
- General Product Consideration. Questions about the products/services, comparisons with competitors, your delivery coverage, your policies.
- Personalized Advice. Questions about the product/service that is right for them based on their preferences or individual needs.
- Timely updates. Requests for updates on order, refund, delivery, fulfillment, account, pricing, upcoming appointments or even policy changes.
- Customer care. Requests about returns, cancelations, rescheduling or questions about servicing, replacements, insurance, etc.
- Account Management: Get regular advice on the products and services and get their concerns addressed with assigned company representation
- Loyalty and Reward Programs: Get details on their loyalty points and rewards or learn about a new promotion that you have on offer.
There are numerous different questions being asked of your customer service agents every single day.
Your marketing and sales teams are also addressing questions through their own channels.
These conversations can give you valuable insights into your customers’ needs and preferences.
If analysed, they can help you create more enriched customer profiles and segmentation for your CRM and brand strategies.
Which we’ve seen help brands achieve;
- Increased Opt-in rates
- Increased message delivery and open rates
- New customer acquisition
- Increases in customer satisfaction and NPS
- Greater share of customer queries when compared to existing approaches
- Increase in conversion rate
- Decrease in customer response time
- Increase in first contact resolution
- Decrease in operations costs
- Increase in customer retention
Thanks to WhatsApp’s integrations, you’re able to drive interest and new customer acquisition from multiple locations including;
- Facebook / Social Ad campaigns
- On-site chat widgets that focus on organic traffic
- Offline marketing materials (list your number in a public place like a billboard and have people message you)
- Wa.me link
- Google ListingAdWords
- IVR and other support channels
- Re-engagement campaigns with former WhatsApp chat customers
There are, however, a couple of things that WhatsApp currently limits or has not made available through the Business API.
These are mostly linked to the tiers of service.
Before I explain the rate limits of WhatsApp Business API, I have to first cover the general best use practices.
The below rules only apply if you;
- Abide by the WhatsApp Business Policy
- Only send messages to users who have opted in to hear from you specifically through WhatsApp
- Make the messages highly personalized and relevant to each user
- Be mindful of the frequency you’re messaging your users
With that out of the ay, I want to quickly cover the messaging rate limits.
In short, when you sign up for Business WhatsApp API you’re limited to sending 1000 messages per day.
You can increase that limit to 10,000 and then 100,000 per day, but you have to hit a very particular threshold.
To get yourself increased from tier 1 to 2, and then tier 3 you must send notification to users that are 2X your daily message limit.
That means to get bumped up to 10,000 messages per day, you must send notifications to at least 2000 individual users within a week.
Here’s the graphic WhatsApp use to explain the upgrade.
A side by side comparison of WhatsApp business App vs WhatsApp Business API
Here’s how the actual features for each offering compare to one another.
What’s right for your brand?
This is often described as a simple question to answer, but it’s not.
Most advice out there simply says that if you’re a small 1-5 person operation, use the app. Any more people in your brand, use the API.
But it’s far more complex than that.
You see, the WhatsApp Business API doesn’t come with a nice interface to display your data. It is just the raw data.
You need to either be able to create a solution that will allow you to understand and act on that data (and get approved by WhatsApp), or partner with a service like Jumper that can help you do just that.
Another thing many brands don’t mention is the time and financial cost of the API.
It’s not for small brands as it takes a lot of work to really integrate it well.
So yes, generally speaking, you should make the decision based on how heavily you’ll be using WhatsApp and for how many users/requests.
However, that’s a little too vague to be of any real value.
To help you make the right decision we’ve created a framework so you can determine when you should consider upgrading to WhatsApp business API. Below are some of the factors you should consider
- How many consumers do you expect would engage with you everyday?
- What is your Business Use Case for WhatsApp?
- How many team members can manage your expected volume of conversations every
- How long would you like your brand advisors to spend on each conversation?
- How many customers one brand advisor can manage simultaneously?
- Do you use other softwares for your business processes? Eg CRM, Helpdesk, Order management, etc.
- How important is efficiency and reporting of day to day operations for your business?
- Can you deploy additional budget to customer growth through WhatsApp?
Use the WhatsApp Business App if…
- You have less than 1,000 customers to engage with
- You are looking to offer WhatsApp as a passive channel where customers can message you with their enquiries or schedule appointments.
- You don’t need more than 2 people to manage your conversations volume on WhatsApp.
- The time you spend on each conversation is not critical to your business.
- The number of customers you can manage simultaneously is not critical to your business.
- You don’t use any online software or your business will not be impacted if you data isn’t synced with your current tools.
- You don’t have at least $1000 / month to invest in the channel
- You don’t have the team size to warrant paying for a complete service
Go for the WhatsApp Business API if…
- You have more than 1,000 customers who you can engage with on WhatsApp
- Your are looking to use WhatsApp for sending notifications and updates to customers, as a channel to acquire new customers, to improve your customer experience, or offer personalized shopping.
- You will need more than 2 people to manage your expected volume of conversations.
- Time spent on each conversation and response times are critical to your business and you’d need automations to improve your team efficiency.
- You can afford at least $1000 / month investment into the channel
- You have/need 2 or more members in your team to manage the increase in messages
- You have a product and tech team to build and regularly manage an internal tool for WhatsApp Business API or require a conversational commerce and automation platform likeJumper help you get started quickly..
If you need any extra assistance with making this decision, feel free to reach out to our support team here who can help you identify if you’re ready to step up to the API.
What you need to be wary of…
If you’re at the point of stepping up to the WhatsApp Business API, read this before doing anything else.
You need to be aware of the risks you face.
WhatsApp provides a huge opportunity to brands of all sizes across the globe.
With that opportunity comes opportunistic businesses who operate outside of the rules. We saw this with Messenger when it first became a viable channel.
Unscrupulous service providers across the globe were offering marketing services through the channel without knowing what they’re doing.
It’s a little different with WhatsApp.
In delving into this world we’ve found there to be three kinds of service providers.
The Good – Brands approved by WhatsApp as Business Solution Partners (BSP)
The Bad – Resellers who trick approved BSPs and use a single WhatsApp server for multiple brands (which will get you as their client banned)
The Ugly – Scammers who set up virtual machines and run a “Business API service” through the regular Business App.
Here’s more detail on them.
The Good – Approved WhatsApp Business Solution Providers
These are the only service providers you should be working with.
Each one has been approved by WhatsApp to advise you on the best ways to leverage the channel.
By partnering with one, you get a dedicated WhatsApp server for your business number.
Deploying and managing the WhatsApp Business API infrastructure internally can be comparatively time and cost intensive, which is where a WhatsApp Business Service Provider like Jumper helps out.
The following two methods that are popular with many, will get you banned when you’re discovered.
The Bad – Resellers
To ensure security at scale, WhatsApp Business API only allows 1 account for each cloud instance/number.
That means each WhatsApp Business API account is strictly for a single business.
It makes ensuring a certain level of quality through WhatsApp easy. If someone breaks the rules, WhatsApp simply prevents that number/instance from sending anything to customers moving forward.
However, you may come across resellers who discreetly establish multiple companies on 1 WhatsApp Business API instance.
This is a problem.
If you’re sharing that instance, you’re hoping no one else breaks the rules.
Because if they do, WhatsApp will simply prevent the number you’re sharing from sending anything.
Or, in other words, you’ll be unable to send anything because someone else sharing the number broke the rules.
Resellers basically remove the level of protection WhatsApp have specifically built into the service.
It looks a little like the below.
The benefits of this are that it lowers the cost for each brand who is being resold to.
However, the cons far outweigh the pros.
First and foremost, this is against WhatsApp rules. So if you’re discovered, you could be banned from using WhatsApp in the future.
However, it also runs the risk of sharing responsibility with the other people using the reseller’s service.
If one person breaks the rules, all people using that reseller’s server will find their access removed.
And that’s not to mention the multiple issues you’ll have through lack of support from WhatsApp. As far as they know, you’re not a customer so won’t be able to help you get things like your WhatsApp structured message templates approved.
It might be cheaper, but it’s not a great way to run your WhatsApp campaigns.
The Ugly – Virtual Machines
These are the worst bunch.
Unsurprisingly, they also offer the lowest fees.
These providers are simulating the WhatsApp API through the regular business app. They do so through the use of virtual machines to trick the desktop version of WhatsApp, allowing them to send more messages and circumvent some of the rules.
And this is an outright violation of WhatsApp platform access policies.
The service might be cheap, but it’s similar to like and follow bots on Instagram, a guaranteed way to get yourself banned.
As mentioned there are lists of approved WhatsApp Business Solution providers.
However, none of the lists (including WhatsApp’s own) are complete.
The best way to get the most up to date information on whether a service provider is above board is to contact your Facebook Business Account Manager and to verify if a particular solution is an approved WhatsApp Business Solution Provider. .
They have full, up-to-date lists of all approved business providers.
How to get started with WhatsApp Business today
If you’re interested in getting started with WhatsApp Business today, click the chat bubble at the bottom right of this page to talk to our team.
The Jumper team has extensive experience in conversational commerce and can help you figure out whether the Business App or Business API is right for you.
Schedule a demo with our team today.