I admit I'm living in a messaging bubble, but I feel that WhatsApp Business has become a piping hot topic recently. Business owners & managers I've spoken with want business WhatsApp. Yet few know how to get a business account on WhatsApp, not to mention how to get started with using WhatsApp for Business. If you don't know anything about WhatsApp Business, this post is for you. We'll cover types of WhatsApp Business Accounts, WhatsApp Business Pricing, WhatsApp Business Limitations, and how to get started depending on the type of business you have.
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- WhatsApp Business Messaging
- WhatsApp Business Broadcasts
- WhatsApp Business Automation
- WhatsApp Business CRM
Before we go deep into the topic, let me provide some context. There used to be a time when WhatsApp cost 99¢ per year. Then, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook. After the acquisition, WhatsApp became free and pledged never to have ads. So the big question, how was Facebook going to monetize its 19 Billion dollar purchase of WhatsApp? What was the WhatsApp business model going to be?
The answer? WhatsApp Business. Businesses were already using WhatsApp before business WhatsApp was even available. Using WhatsApp Groups was especially popular with salespeople. Charging companies to use WhatsApp for business made sense as a WhatsApp Business Model. In January 2018, WhatsApp introduced WhatsApp Business.
Why Is WhatsApp Business Use Important?
The reasons for adding WhatsApp are very similar to the reasons for adding Facebook Messenger. There are so many users on WhatsApp that the platform is somewhat hard to ignore. In early 2020, WhatsApp hit 2 billion users, up from 1.5 billion users in Q4 2017. This is an amazing feat considering it is approaching the numbers of Facebook, which currently claims 2.5 billion users as of Q4 2019.
It's not just about the massive number of users though, it's about engagement. WhatsApp users send about 65 billion messages per day, which is about 750,000 messages per second! Even WhatsApp Status, which was seen as a joke when it came out already has 450 million daily active users. Compare that to Snapchats 191 million, and you can begin to understand the magnitude of WhatsApps dominance.
WhatsApp user engagement is high, averaging out the 65 billion messages means users are sending 43 messages per day on average. In addition, with read and receipt indicators WhatsApp users have a lot of psychological pressure to respond to people who are messaging them. Although it's a bit early to know definitively if this effect transfers over to chatting with businesses, there is some evidence to suggest it has.
According to Tech Crunch, over 3 million businesses have already taken the leap by using the WhatsApp for Business app. This data is supported by the fact that the app has over 10 million downloads on Google's Play Store. In addition, some have reported that messages have a 99% open rate & 40%+ response rate in use cases where WhatsApp for Business is used by universities.
All this sounds great for connecting with existing customers or even acquiring users. But what if customers could pay you through WhatsApp directly? It's coming soon.
In early 2018, WhatsApp launched Payments in Beta in India. By August, WhatsApp had recruited a WhatsApp India CEO and created a local office to comply with local data regulation and by the end of 2018, it had applied formally to the Indian Central Bank to request approval to run their payments nationwide. Then at F8 2019, Facebook mentioned they would roll out WhatsApp payments to other countries over the course of 2019.
Facebook also announced the WhatsApp Business Catalog at F8 2019. A way for small businesses to list their products directly on their WhatsApp Business Profile.
Where is WhatsApp Popular?
With 1.5 Billion users worldwide we know that WhatsApp is a great way to build relationships with your customers, but which regions stand to benefit the most from being able to communicate with customers over WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in 104 countries. Without going through the whole list here is a simple rule of thumb. For Europe, Africa and Latin America you can expect WhatsApp is either a leader or has significant enough penetration that you should be targeting WhatsApp users in those countries.
India has the largest reported number of WhatsApp users as of 2019. Brazil is the second biggest market for WhatsApp. The number of WhatsApp users in Brazil is increasing rapidly and forecast to surpass 100 million in 2020 and reach 114 million by 2023.
Much of the popularity of WhatsApp in Brazil is attributed to the fact that internet access is expensive. However, many carriers offer WhatsApp with no data usage cost to the subscriber making it the obvious economical choice for local Brazilians to message on.
The most notable markets where WhatsApp is not the most popular messaging app are the United States, China, and Australia. In China specifically, WhatsApp has been blocked since 2017 and we don't expect this block to be lifted anytime soon.
Now that you know that WhatsApp is popular in your market, as if you didn't already know, it's time to consider the types of messages and transactions you need to make on WhatsApp Business and what account will best suit your company's needs.
WhatsApp Business Basics
There are key questions to consider when choosing WhatsApp as a platform for your business. These are:
- Do WhatsApp policies allow you to carry out your desired business activities?
- What type of WhatsApp account best suits your messaging needs?
- Does WhatsApp Business fit within your desired budget?
Let's begin with understanding the basics of WhatsApp's policies in the next section.
WhatsApp Business Policy
WhatsApp aims to provide a quality experience for its users. One way it does this is by curating the types of messages you can send. You can also only message someone if they sent the first message or gave you their phone number and agreed to be contacted on WhatsApp by you.
If a user initiates a chat with you, you may continue the conversation for a 24-hour window after their last message, free of charge. You can also automate messages to ensure you always reply to users within this window.
The types of messages you can send will also depend on the type of account you have, whether it is WhatsApp Business App or API. For example, promotional messages aren't allowed over WhatsApp Business API.
Beyond the quality experience of a spam-free messaging platform, WhatsApp policies also provide security for users by requiring businesses to protect their data. Furthermore, WhatsApp Commerce Policy outlines all the illegal products and services that are not allowed to be traded over WhatsApp.
Just in case you were wondering what happens if you are caught in breach of WhatsApp's policies, they can limit or remove your access to and use of any WhatsApp Business Products indefinitely.
But let's assume you don't plan to break any laws and it is possible for you to carry out all your desired business transactions via WhatsApp. What's the next step? It's time to pick the type of account you want for your business.
Types of WhatsApp Business Accounts
This is where things get a little complicated. WhatsApp created two different types of business accounts. One for small businesses and one for bigger companies.
WhatsApp Business App allows small business people to separate their personal and their business WhatsApp conversations. With the app, they can interact with local customers and quickly respond to messages. The app even has some automation features.
To create a WhatsApp Business App account download the app onto a phone with a sim card. Keep in mind, you will need a separate sim card for business WhatsApp, you can not use the same sim card as your personal account.
Getting started with the app is as quick as buying a sim card. The downside is that you can only have a single user, whoever is holding the phone at the time. Having an extra phone for your business WhatsApp is useful so you can pass it around.
WhatsApp Business API is for larger companies to interact with a global customer base. At first, only enterprise-level companies could get access to WhatsApp API. The API was used for use cases like WhatsApp booking & notifications on KLM.
Recently, smaller companies have started being accepted for API accounts for simple use cases like customer support. Creating a WhatsApp Business API account still requires being approved by a WhatsApp partner though.
Since the account is just access to an API, the full potential of your account will depend on your WhatsApp Solution Provider. The API also comes with pricing and messaging limitations designed to prevent spam messaging and encourage swift responses.
WhatsApp Business Pricing
The amount you pay to use WhatsApp for business will depend on the type of account you create.
WhatsApp Business App Pricing is simple. WhatsApp doesn't charge for using the app, but there are some associated costs. You'll need a dedicated phone number because using the same number for personal and business WhatsApp is not allowed.
If you have a dual sim phone, you can buy an additional sim card to insert and assign that number to WhatsApp Business App. If you don't have a dual sim phone, you'll need to purchase a new phone for this purpose.
Remember the app can only be installed on a single device. For multiple people to have access, buy an extra phone you can pass around. If you need multiple users across multiple devices, go for an API account.
WhatsApp API Pricing is charged per message. Until WhatsApp makes their API available directly (or at least adds more partners), you'll need to pay two fees for messaging. A fee to WhatsApp and a fee to the WhatsApp partner you opened an account with. Both fees are collected by the partner.
The good news is as long as you respond to contact within 24 hours, WhatsApp doesn't charge you for messaging.
WhatsApp API accounts are still only available through partners; generally, these are SMS providers. These partners typically charge their standard SMS fee for every message on top of WhatsApp's messaging fee.
The fee paid to WhatsApp depends on the destination country of the message and the type of message. There are two types of messages, session messages & template messages.
As long as you respond within 24 hours it counts as a session message. Session messages are free to send while template messages incur a fee. Last but not least, WhatsApp never charges for incoming messages.
If you are happy with WhatsApp's pricing and you have decided on the type of account you will use, keep reading to find out how you can send all the different kinds of available message types on WhatsApp.
Using WhatsApp For Business
WhatsApp has many useful messaging features for business. There are key differences to note, for what you can do with messages, broadcasts, automation and using WhatsApp as a CRM, depending on if you have a WhatsApp Business App or API account.
The following section will help you to understand how you can use WhatsApp Business to its full messaging and CRM potential, based on the type of business account you have.
WhatsApp Business Messaging
Messaging is a good place to start discussing WhatsApp Business limitations. WhatsApp designed the app and API with specific categories of businesses in mind. The limitations associated with these two account types reflect that.
WhatsApp Business App Messaging is designed to get small businesses onto WhatsApp Business. There are no messaging limitations. As long as you have a contact number, you can send a message. Yes, using the app, businesses can send the first message over WhatsApp.
WhatsApp does not limit the app on the number of messages sent or on types of content. As long as the other person does not block you, you will be able to send messages to them.
WhatsApp Business API Messaging is designed to get companies to pay to access their customers over their preferred channel. There is an opt-in rule, meaning outside specific cases you'll need to get your contact to send you a message first before you can message them back.
There are two classes of messaging too. WhatsApp Session Messaging & WhatsApp Template Messaging. Anytime you respond to your WhatsApp Business contact within 24 hours, it's considered a Session Messaging.
Everything outside 24 hours is considered Template Messaging. To send a template message, you'll need to get a template approved by WhatsApp first. Marketing templates are usually not approved, although we were able to get a template about feature updates approved.
WhatsApp Business Broadcasts
If you're noticing a trend where the App has more messaging freedom than the API, you're correct. The trade-off has been more messaging freedom in the App, more automation possible over the API. When it comes to broadcast, that App has a clear advantage though.
WhatsApp Business App Broadcasts are quite an asset to small businesses. There are no limitations on the type of content you can send. However, you can only send broadcasts to 256 people at a time. In addition, WhatsApp users will need to add you as a contact before they can receive the broadcast.
Although this seems like quite a hefty WhatsApp Business limitation, as long as you stay organized, this feature is quite powerful. Using labels provided in the App, you'll be able to organize people into groups on the fly and send compelling, targeted WhatsApp messages en masse.
WhatsApp Business API Broadcasts are not something WhatsApp promotes. The only conceivable way of sending a WhatsApp API broadcast would be by using template messaging. WhatsApp discourages this in two ways.
First, by limiting template messaging to non-marketing content – second, by rate-limiting template messages to 15 messages per second. We think this will be adjusted in the future as sending template messages en masse to warn people of a power outage, airport disruption or other events are valid use cases.
That said, remember that if you use a service such as WhatsApp broadcasts in violation of their terms or policies, to message people at scale in an unauthorized manner, WhatsApp has the right to limit or remove your access to WhatsApp Business services.
WhatsApp Business Automation
When it comes to automation, out of the box, the app is a clear winner. It comes with useful automation features. For the API, automation features depend on your WhatsApp Business Solution Provider.
WhatsApp Business App Automations consists of three features that are very useful for small business owners. The Greeting Message allows you to send a quick message to everyone who messages you for the first time. Letting them know what you are about and how soon you will reply.
The Away Message is something you can schedule during certain times of the day. You can use this automation feature to let your contacts know that you are not around and give them an expectation to when you might reply.
Quick Replies are also a godsend. You might think to yourself, how can I respond to all my business messages when I am just one person using an app. Quick replies are canned responses that you can use by typing a "/" into the input bar. They allow you to reply with pre-written messages to messages in a flash.
WhatsApp Business API Automations are possible, but it depends on what you connect to your API account. If you are looking for WhatsApp Business Solution provider, you should consider Respond.io. We have all the automation features of the app and more.
WhatsApp Business CRM
Once you've done the hard work of promoting your WhatsApp Business account and your prospects or customers are chatting with you over WhatsApp, you'll need a way to manage all those contacts.
WhatsApp Business App Contacts Manager works almost exactly like personal WhatsApp. If the contact is in your phone contacts, the app will show them using the name you have saved. If the contact is not in your phone book, it will just be shown as your phone number.
The app does have one additional feature called labels. Labels work a lot like tags in a CRM. As you're chatting, you can add labels to the contact. Then you'll be able to create groups or WhatsApp broadcasts based on the labels you've assigned to people.
WhatsApp API does not have a built-in contact manager or CRM. If you're looking for a WhatsApp CRM with all the features of the app and more, you should consider using Respond.io.
WhatsApp Business App vs WhatsApp Business API
The app is all about helping small business thrive, but its not much more than that. Here are some reasons to choose the app:
- Very easy to get started, buy a new sim & download the app
- Message any contact at any time, no messaging limitations
- Send broadcasts to up to 256 contacts, any content is allowed
Once your business starts growing, and you start dealing with a higher volume of messages, the downsides of the app will become clear:
- Account can only be used on one device by one user
- Automation is limited to Greeting Message, Away Message & Quick Replies
- No extendability, a CRM or ERP cannot be connected
An easy way to decide between app and API is how much messaging your business gets. If the volume cannot be handled by just one person choose WhatsApp API. For medium and large size businesses, the API has the following benefits:
- A WhatsApp Business Solution or WhatsApp CRM can be connected
- Allows for unlimited users and devices
- Can be used for programmatic messaging like notifications
All the above functionality makes the API a little more challenging to set up and run. This is because:
- Creating a WhatsApp API Business Account requires approval
- Messaging must be responded to within 24 hours
All in all, WhatsApp Business is an excellent solution for businesses that serve consumers in countries where WhatsApp is critical. If you need any help with creating your WhatsApp Solution, don't hesitate to contact us.
WhatsApp Business: Infographic
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