New to using WhatsApp for business? This all-in-one guide to WhatsApp Business will help you understand everything about WhatsApp Business products. We'll cover the types of WhatsApp Business accounts and sign-up methods, their pricing as well as the features and limitations of each account type. Finally, we’ll help you decide which WhatsApp product is most suitable for your business.
What is WhatsApp Business?
WhatsApp Business is a set of WhatsApp products that give businesses of all sizes a platform to communicate with customers on WhatsApp.
It was introduced in 2018 when WhatsApp realized that companies were using the personal app for business. Meta, previously known as Facebook, saw this as a great opportunity to monetize the free app. So, it created a set of WhatsApp business solutions.
This would separate business and personal communication, help businesses create an official presence and provide businesses with a set of tools specifically for customer conversations. Today, over 50 million businesses use WhatsApp Business to reach customers in regions where WhatsApp is popular.
Where is WhatsApp Popular?
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world with 2.6 billion monthly active users. It is the most dominant messaging app in 188 countries and territories out of the 230 that use WhatsApp.
India has the highest number of WhatsApp users globally followed by Brazil, Indonesia, the US, Russia and Mexico. Brazil has the largest market of WhatsApp users outside of Asia with more than 96 percent of the population being active WhatsApp users.
The heavy use of WhatsApp has led to 292 million downloads of WhatsApp Business App on Android and IOS devices as of June 2022.
With up to 100 billion messages exchanged per day, it is clear that WhatsApp is not only popular, but it also has a high engagement rate. Compared to traditional communication methods like email, WhatsApp messages recorded a whopping 98% message open rate.
Now that you know how important WhatsApp is, here’s what you should know about WhatsApp Business.
WhatsApp Business Account: The Basics
This section will discuss WhatsApp Business policies, types of WhatsApp Business accounts and the pricing for each account type.
WhatsApp Business Policies
WhatsApp aims to provide a high-quality experience for its users. To ensure that the platform remains spam-free, businesses must abide by WhatsApp’s Business and Commerce Policies which protect users’ privacy and ban the trade of illegal products and services.
Businesses must also ensure that information like their website URL and customer support number on their business profile are accurate and up-to-date. They cannot impersonate other businesses or provide misleading information about the nature of their business.
If businesses violate the policies, WhatsApp will limit or remove their access to WhatsApp Business products indefinitely. Now that you understand the policies, let's take a look at the types of WhatsApp Business accounts.
Types of WhatsApp Business Accounts
Here, we’ll lay out the types of WhatsApp Accounts that you can choose from based on your business size along with the sign-up method for each account.
WhatsApp Business App Account
The WhatsApp Business App account is for small businesses that want to communicate with their customers over WhatsApp. Businesses can manage their conversations by setting up Quick Replies and automated welcome and away messages.
Businesses can use the business app account on up to 5 devices, comprising 1 phone and 4 additional devices. To use it on up to 10 devices, they can subscribe to WhatsApp Business Premium. However, this plan is currently only available in certain countries.
Remember, you can only install the WhatsApp Business App on a single phone and must use WhatsApp Business Web to connect additional devices.
To create an account, all you need is a sim card or e-sim and a phone. Simply install WhatsApp Business App and connect your phone number to it. Just like that, you can start using the WhatsApp Business App.
Note that the phone number you use cannot be linked to any existing WhatsApp account. The same applies to the API accounts, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
There are two types of WhatsApp API accounts, the WhatsApp Business API, also known as WhatsApp On-premises API, and WhatsApp Cloud API. They were made for medium to large companies looking to use the platform with multiple users for marketing, sales and support.
Because the APIs do not have a user interface, they must be connected to a business messaging inbox like respond.io or a WhatsApp CRM to send and receive messages. This enables businesses to use advanced automation like lead qualification, chat routing, auto-assignment and more.
While the two accounts have the same messaging features and rules, the application process and hosting type differ.
They can get WhatsApp Business API access in one of two ways: through the classic sign-up method or the embedded sign-up method. Regardless, the API will be hosted on BSPs’ servers or individual business servers.
WhatsApp Cloud API, on the other hand, allows businesses to apply for WhatsApp API account directly through Meta and host it on Meta’s servers in the cloud. However, setting up a Cloud API account requires some technical knowledge.
While setting up Cloud API on your own is free, getting a BSP’s assistance for the API application process comes with extra costs. We’ll discuss the details in the next section.
WhatsApp Business Pricing
Now that you know the types of WhatsApp Business accounts available, let's look at the pricing for each.
WhatsApp for Business Pricing: Business App
WhatsApp doesn't charge businesses for using the app, but there are some associated costs involved. For instance, 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 or a phone that supports e-sim, you can buy an additional SIM and assign that number to the Business App. If not, you'll need to purchase a new phone to use the app.
While businesses don’t need to spend much to use WhatsApp Business App, this is not the case for the APIs.
WhatsApp for Business Pricing: APIs
The pricing for the two API accounts differs as the parties involved in the application process and hosting providers differ. The pricing for WhatsApp Business API varies among BSPs because they charge businesses their own fees on top of what WhatsApp charges.
For instance, businesses must pay per-conversation fees to WhatsApp and bear BSP-imposed fees like setup fees, server maintenance fees and more.
Because businesses can request Cloud API Access directly from Meta, they don’t have to pay any BSP imposed fees and only need to pay per conversation. The conversation-based pricing has two categories: user-initiated conversations and business-initiated conversations.
User-initiated conversations are conversations initiated by customers. When customers send a message, a 24-hour messaging window will open. During this period, businesses will be charged user-initiated conversation fees when they reply to customers’ messages.
On the flip side, businesses will be charged business-initiated conversation fees when they initiate conversations outside the 24-hour messaging window.
Now that you have an overview of the types of WhatsApp Business accounts, let's look at the messaging capabilities of each account.
WhatsApp Business: Messaging Customers on WhatsApp
The WhatsApp Business App and APIs were designed with specific business sizes in mind; hence, the messaging features and limitations associated with the accounts reflect that.
WhatsApp for Business: 1:1 Messaging
This section will explain everything about 1:1 messaging on the Business App and API accounts.
1:1 Messaging with The Business App Account
The WhatsApp Business App account provides a lot of flexibility to small businesses using the platform. For instance, they can send an unlimited number of free messages in any format and send customers the first message if they have their number.
However, businesses must still abide by WhatsApp's business and commerce policies to avoid spamming their customers. If many customers block or report a business account, WhatsApp will ban the account.
Since larger businesses have more financial resources and customers, you’ll find that there are even more messaging rules for the API account in comparison with the Business App.
1:1 Messaging with API Accounts
With API accounts, businesses have to gain active consent from their contacts before messaging them and must respond to contacts within a 24-hour window. These policies prevent businesses from spamming customers and encourage them to reply to customers quickly.
There are two types of API messages, as mentioned earlier. Session Messages occur when businesses respond to user-initiated conversations within the 24-hour messaging window. Message Templates, on the other hand, are required when businesses initiate a conversation outside the messaging window.
Message Templates have to be pre-approved by WhatsApp before businesses can send them. While WhatsApp may reject your Message Templates for several reasons, applying some best practices can improve the chance of approval.
As for Session Messages, businesses can send any type of content as long as they abide by WhatsApp’s policies. The best part is, both message types support Interactive Messages that help customers communicate their needs and reply to the business easily.
Now that you’re clear about 1:1 messaging on WhatsApp, let’s look at how broadcasting works on each account.
WhatsApp for Business: Broadcast Messaging
Broadcast messaging is a great way to reach large audiences at once. While this may sound intriguing, here’s what you need to know about broadcasting with the WhatsApp Business App and APIs.
Broadcast Messaging with the Business App Account
Broadcasting over the WhatsApp Business App is simple and straightforward. Businesses are free to broadcast any form of content to 256 people per Broadcast list at a time. They can use the labels provided in the Business App to organize contacts into groups.
This will help them send compelling targeted WhatsApp messages to the right audience.
However, there are downsides to sending broadcast messages using the app. For instance, businesses must manually add contacts to their phone to send broadcasts, and only contacts who have saved their number can receive their broadcasts.
While businesses won’t have these problems with the APIs, there are different broadcasting rules and capabilities for them.
Broadcast Messaging with The API Account
The only way to send a broadcast with the API is by using pre-approved Message Templates. This allows businesses to send non-transactional notifications, like offers or informational alerts including shipping updates, account updates and more.
While the App has a clear contact limit per broadcast, the number of contacts a business can broadcast to with the API depends on its Messaging Tier. In addition, the broadcasting capabilities depend heavily on the software you’ve connected your API to.
For instance, with respond.io, you can build Message Templates for broadcasts, schedule broadcasts, send test broadcasts and more. Broadcasts are not the only way to communicate with multiple WhatsApp users at once. Businesses can also do this with group messaging.
WhatsApp for Business: Group Messaging
API accounts do not support group messaging. The only way for businesses to create groups is through the App. Businesses can use WhatsApp Group messaging to connect with a large audience like they do when sending broadcasts.
However, group messages are used for two-way communication between the parties involved in a WhatsApp Group. For instance, businesses can create a WhatsApp Group with important clients to discuss any issues, updates and more.
Businesses can invite up to 1,024 participants in a group from their contact list, send any type of content and add multiple admins to moderate the group.
Now that we’ve covered everything about messaging, here are some notable WhatsApp features for business.
WhatsApp Business Special Features
In this section, we’ll discuss special WhatsApp features like WhatsApp Catalog, WhatsApp Cart and WhatsApp Pay. These features are only available on WhatsApp Business App. That said, let's take a closer look at the features.
WhatsApp Catalog and WhatsApp Cart
The WhatsApp Catalog is made for small businesses to showcase their products and services. Setting up a Catalog is easy. Businesses just need to upload pictures of their products or services and add descriptions and prices for each of them.
They can also promote the Catalog by sharing the Catalog link or product links in-app or on other websites and messaging channels.
Once the Catalog is set up and approved by WhatsApp, customers can scroll through the listing, add items to their WhatsApp Cart and then message the business to confirm the deal.
In most countries, businesses must direct customers to a third-party payment gateway to make the payment as WhatsApp Pay is not widely available.
WhatsApp Pay is a feature that enables consumers to pay in-app. It is not available in most countries, mainly because setting up payment services in any country involves abiding by unique government legislation in each country.
Currently, WhatsApp Pay is only available in Brazil, India and to selected users in the US. Because of that, only customers located in regions where WhatsApp Pay is available can use the feature.
Now that we have covered everything about each account type, let's look at their differences in the next section.
WhatsApp Business App vs API Accounts
By now you should have an idea of which WhatsApp product is most suitable for your business. To make that decision even easier, we’ll summarize and compare the features of the three WhatsApp Business account types.
Which WhatsApp Product Should You Use?
The WhatsApp Business App is perfect for small businesses that receive low volumes of messages. Starting with the business app is easy and cheap as businesses only need to download the App and get a new phone number.
It supports broadcasts and simple automation like quick replies, greeting and away messages. However, once you start receiving a higher volume of messages, you’ll realize the need for advanced features and automation to manage your conversations.
This is when the APIs come in. To recap, you can choose either a WhatsApp Business API account or a WhatsApp Cloud API account.
While getting API access through a BSP has some downsides, many businesses still prefer getting it this way. This happens for a few reasons:
- Setting up a Cloud API account can be too complex for non-tech-savvy users.
- BSPs like 360dialog let you get WhatsApp API access in under 10 minutes.
- Some BSPs are starting to provide Cloud API.
- Businesses get personalized support from BSPs on WhatsApp API-related issues.
As you can see, businesses usually involve BSPs because they need help managing their API. If you can manage your own API, then setting up Cloud API on your own is for you. Still can’t decide which API account to choose? Consider these points.
You’ve made it to the end! We hope this article gave you a clear understanding of what WhatsApp Business accounts are, how to get started with each account and the features they provide.
Looking for the best way to get started with WhatsApp? Sign up for our free trial and apply for a WhatsApp API account all at once!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about WhatsApp Business, check out the articles below.