If you are planning to apply for WhatsApp API, also known as the WhatsApp Business Platform, you should be familiar with the term WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) or WhatsApp partner. Diving into this topic can feel daunting as there are plenty of BSPs to choose from, each with its own set of features, pricing and limitations. In this article, you will learn what WhatsApp partners are, how they can help your business, and what to look for when choosing a WhatsApp BSP.
What is a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider?
WhatsApp Business Solution Providers are third-party companies that help you get access to WhatsApp API. They are approved by WhatsApp and often provide solutions to enable businesses to send messages, manage customer interactions and integrate with other business tools.
If Meta offers direct access to WhatsApp API, what is the point of Business Solution Providers? When creating WhatsApp Business, WhatsApp had good reasons to entrust BSPs with access to its API. Let’s find out why.
Why WhatsApp Collaborates with WhatsApp Business Partners
Before 2022, businesses could only apply for a WhatsApp API account through a WhatsApp BSP. WhatsApp's decision not to offer its API directly to most companies stems from two priorities.
The first one was profitability. After Meta acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, the company pledged never to have ads on WhatsApp, so it needed a different business model. The solution was the WhatsApp Business API.
The second priority was to keep a low headcount. Despite being acquired for a high price, WhatsApp only had about 35 engineers back then. Outsourcing the process to partners is less resource-intensive and cost-effective because it eliminates the need to hire additional employees.
Because WhatsApp wants to maintain its reputation as a secure messaging channel, it carefully selects its BSPs. In fact, there are fewer than 150 WhatsApp BSP worldwide to date.
However, there’s also a reason why there are fewer than 150 WhatsApp BSP worldwide: WhatsApp must ensure BSPs are reliable and won’t damage its reputation as a secure messaging channel.
If there's one thing we learned from email and SMS, it's that some companies use them to spam customers, which affects user experience and drives users away. WhatsApp is well aware of the importance of protecting its platform from spamming, so it restricts the number of BSPs with access to its API.
Next, we’ll give you a quick overview of the different types of integrations made available by WhatsApp Business Solution Providers.
How a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider Works
There are two types of WhatsApp API integration that BSPs provide: WhatsApp Cloud API and WhatsApp On-premises API. The difference between these two lies in the hosting — the former is hosted on Meta’s cloud servers, while the latter is hosted on WhatsApp partner servers or individual business servers.
Signing up for a WhatsApp On-premises API Account through a WhatsApp partner means the access is to the Partner's API, not directly to WhatsApp API. Because of that, WhatsApp API updates usually take longer to go live, as they require BSPs to manually update their API software.
Contrary to WhatsApp On-premises API, businesses using WhatsApp Cloud API get direct access to WhatsApp’s API. As a result, updates go live with minimum delay and require little to no BSP intervention.
Remember, not all WhatsApp partners are created equal. Your experience with WhatsApp Business API can vary depending on the BSP of your choice. Below, we’ll help you wade through the good, the bad and the ugly to find the WhatsApp partner that meets your needs.
WhatsApp Business Solution Provider: Benefits, Pricing and Restrictions
While WhatsApp BSPs have made WhatsApp API accessible, some of their pricing practices and functionality restrictions are not optimal for businesses. We'll explore why in the following sections.
WhatsApp Partner Benefits
If you are new to WhatsApp Business API, your WhatsApp partner will be ready to provide guidance every step of the way, from figuring out messaging rules and porting numbers to verifying your WhatsApp Business API account.
Let's face it. WhatsApp Business API is hard to understand. WhatsApp has complex, at times confusing rules when it comes to messaging. For instance, WhatsApp Business API doesn’t allow you to send a message anytime or in any format you want.
WhatsApp is also constantly improving its rules, making it difficult for businesses to keep up with them. Thankfully, WhatsApp partners are well-equipped to help you understand them and keep you updated on any rule changes.
Furthermore, some BSPs will help you by providing a phone number or porting your existing phone number. Depending on the chosen partner, you can port a mobile number, a landline, or even a 1-800 number.
A WhatsApp partner can also help you with WhatsApp Business verification to obtain the green checkmark. While many WhatsApp partners are here to provide good service and help your company become successful, businesses should always take into consideration their pricing models.
WhatsApp Partner Pricing
WhatsApp Business Solution Provider is free to set up its own pricing. Thus, many of them charge businesses a price different from what they actually pay WhatsApp to make a profit.
For instance, certain partners require businesses to pay a markup per message. The markup varies from one BSP to another. So you should find out if you’re overpaying.
However, comparing WhatsApp Business pricing is difficult. Many WhatsApp partners don’t put their pricing information publicly on the website. Businesses are typically required to fill out a Contact Us form, providing their business and contact details and then wait for the BSP to provide pricing information.
Before paying a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider for WhatsApp API, you need to know that some BSPs charge a set-up fee. This means that you will have to make an upfront payment if you want to have access to the API.
Contacting certain WhatsApp partners can be a stressful experience, as you may go through aggressive questioning about your use case. Everything you say can be misinterpreted as spamming, which is prohibited by WhatsApp.
While markups per message and non-transparent WhatsApp pricing can be a real headache, you can work around these pricing issues with proper research. Lastly, some WhatsApp partners have restrictions that can affect your experience using WhatsApp API. We’ll discuss them below.
WhatsApp Partner Restrictions
Not all WhatsApp partners will support features available on WhatsApp API. Some WhatsApp partners integrate WhatsApp API with their proprietary API so it’s technologically challenging to include any new WhatsApp features.
Furthermore, some WhatsApp partners don’t offer WhatsApp API accounts alone and include their own CRM software by default. This is problematic for businesses that were already using another third-party CRM.
What happens if you want to change your BSP? Luckily, it’s possible to migrate a phone number to a new WhatsApp API account with another WhatsApp Business Solution Provider given that the source and destination Facebook Business Manager IDs are the same.
In some cases, businesses are not aware of these restrictions until they have signed up. So, choose your WhatsApp Business Solution Provider carefully because it will be hard to switch.
We have explained WhatsApp BSP’s benefits, pricing and restrictions. However, it can still be challenging to come to a conclusion. In the next section, we will help you identify what type of WhatsApp partner is the best for your use case.
Choosing a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider
By now you should have a good overview of the possibilities that WhatsApp partners offer. To help you make an informed decision, we've divided WhatsApp partners into three approachable categories.
SMS providers vs Other WhatsApp BSP
Choosing between these two types of WhatsApp Business Solution Providers can affect your WhatsApp API experience. SMS providers were already using their own APIs before selling WhatsApp accounts. Therefore, their WhatsApp API will be similar to their SMS API.
This has a major downside: Since SMS providers built their API infrastructure with SMS messaging in mind, adding WhatsApp updates to their own API is a complex process. As a result, these updates take longer time to be available to customers.
There is a second group of BSPs composed of CRM vendors, chatbot agencies and customer communication management platforms. Choosing this option instead of SMS providers is synonymous with faster updates. But why is this so?
These partners usually go for a proxy API, very similar to WhatsApp's. Because they share the same infrastructure, updating APIs is a much simpler process. In other words, they don't have to face the complications of dealing with two significantly different APIs.
Knowing the differences between these two types of BSP is useful, but there are more things to consider. For instance, what pricing model is suitable for your business?
Per-message vs Monthly Plan WhatsApp BSP
Some BSPs like Twilio price their service on a per-message basis. But other WhatsApp partners provide monthly or yearly plans. Depending on your business needs, choose the pricing model that suits your company best.
Per-message plans are suitable for businesses that send low volumes of monthly messages as committing to a monthly plan could bring unnecessary extra costs. However, this pricing model wouldn't be cost-effective for larger message loads.
Monthly and yearly plans are often the preferred option for medium-sized businesses and enterprises as they tend to provide better value than per-message plans.
Markup vs non-Markup WhatsApp BSP
Per-message markups are not good news for any business. When a company needs to have hundreds of monthly conversations, messaging costs can skyrocket quickly. Plus, businesses must note that on top of BSP charges, they will also face WhatsApp’s conversation-based pricing costs.
Before choosing a BSP, businesses should confirm if the BSP applies any markup per message along with the exact cost associated with it.Here are some examples:
- Twilio: $0.005 markup per message
- MessageBird: $0.005 markup per message
- 360dialog: No markups but doesn’t provide a messaging inbox, so consider that additional fee
- respond.io: No markups
We have explored the different types of WhatsApp API partners. And now that you know what to expect from them, it's time to decide what makes the ideal WhatsApp Business Solution Provider.
WhatsApp Business Solution Provider: Which One is the Best for Your Business?
Firstly, we suggest companies apply for a BSP that integrates with WhatsApp Cloud API. This way, the newest WhatsApp API updates will quickly reflect on your WhatsApp Account and you avoid expensive set-up, hosting and maintenance fees.
Secondly, medium-sized businesses and enterprises should choose BSPs that offer monthly or yearly plans, as they tend to provide better value as messaging needs grow.
Lastly, we recommend choosing a WhatsApp partner that doesn't apply markups on messaging. So, is there any BSP that meets the three requisites? The answer is respond.io.
WhatsApp Partner: Why Choose Respond.io as a WhatsApp BSP
Respond.io is an official WhatsApp Business Solutions Provider and customer conversation management software. Here are a few reasons why it’s the right WhatsApp Business Solution Provider for your business:
- Higher reliability: Hosting on Meta servers makes respond.io WhatsApp API more trustworthy than other on-premise solutions. Plus, respond.io famously has high uptime and is built to handle high volumes of conversations.
- Faster message delivery: Meta’s servers are strategically located to minimize latency.
- Easier setup: A quick and intuitive WhatsApp Cloud API application process. Meta Developer Account not required.
- Lower costs: Respond.io WhatsApp API does not impose any set up, hosting or per-message fees. The respond.io platform also comes with an omnichannel inbox so you don’t have to pay for a separate inbox to send and receive messages.
- Badged Meta Business Partner: Respond.io has been vetted by Meta for its expertise in the business messaging space.
Looking for the ideal WhatsApp BSP? With groundbreaking features like AI Agent or Contact Merge, respond.io gives medium size businesses and enterprises the best value for their money. Sign up for a respond.io account and connect WhatsApp API!
You’ve made it to the end! That’s everything you need to know about WhatsApp API costs. If you enjoyed this article and you'd like to learn more about WhatsApp Business, here are some additional readings.