There is no doubt that WhatsApp is a very attractive channel for companies, because more than 1,500 million people around the world use it every day to stay in touch with their family and friends.
Due to this popularity among consumers in 2018 WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Business, the business version of this popular app. Thanks to this new communication channel brands can have personalized conversations with their customers and followers on a peer to peer basis.
The main goal of this version is to enable people to interact with their favorite companies in the same easy way. At the same time, WhatsApp Business offers a great opportunity for any company or business to connect with its customers in a simple and secure way.
WhatsApp Business offers two different solutions: the free app, which like the personal version, is installed on a mobile phone and WhatsApp Business API, an application programming interface. The question that many entrepreneurs may ask themselves is what is the difference between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API and which solution is best for my company or business?
Understanding the difference between WhatsApp Business and the WhatsApp Business API is essential if you want to know what conversational marketing strategy can be carried out with each of the solutions.
- What is the WhatsApp Business App?
- What is WhatsApp Business API?
- What is the best solution for my company?
- Advantages of the official WhatsApp API
- Inconveniences of Whatsapp Business API
- What is the price of the WhatsApp Business API?
- Data protection and privacy
What is the WhatsApp Business App?
The WhatsApp Business app is designed for small business owners, or local companies that want to communicate with their customers through this channel.
Like the personal WhatsApp Business app it is installed on a mobile phone. In the following article you can see the main differences between WhatsApp personal and WhatsApp Business apps – – – – [LINK].
Although it is not strictly necessary to have a mobile line for its configuration. You also use a landline or a special rate number. Within the App we can configure the profile of the company including the URL of the company’s website, a contact email, the business hours and the address of the company. In the messaging tools we can define welcome messages, away messages and quick replies that help us to easily answer frequently asked questions from our users without having to write the same answer over and over again.
The App does not offer any kind of integration with other systems or access to the API. Conversations can only be accessed through the mobile phone, or through WhatsApp Web, the desktop version that is activated by scanning the QR code that appears on the screen from the corresponding option in the settings of the app.
What is WhatsApp Business API?
The WhatsApp Business API allows you to automate conversations with customers in a scalable way. With the API solution it is possible for several employees to attend incoming messages on the same number simultaneously. You can even attend conversations of a single WhatsApp phone number from different offices, cities, or countries.
As it is an application programming interface integrations can be carried out with other systems and platforms such as a CRM, or systems for monitoring leads, sales, analysis, accounting, inventory control, courier services etc.
All communications with clients on WhatsApp can be integrated into existing systems where conversations by phone, email and other channels like Slack are centralized.
What is the best solution for my company?
There are two simple rules that help you to find out which solution is best for your company. The first and most obvious one is the size of the company and the second one is the volume of messages managed through the WhatsApp channel.
If your company is an SME with few employees, which manages a maximum of 50 conversations per day via WhatsApp your solution is the app installed on your mobile device. With the built-in tools such as labels and quick replies you can easily classify your customers and manage 80% of your conversations practically on autopilot.
There is no learning curve either, because using WhatsApp Business is very similar to using the personal version. Just get familiar with the most interesting tools such as labels, automatic messages and practice a little with the shortcuts of the quick replies to get the best out of the WhatsApp Business app.
On the other hand, if your company is larger, has a dedicated support department, or offers customer service with several employees, it is likely that the WhatsApp Business API will suit you. With this interface it is possible, that several employees handle conversations with customers on WhatsApp simultaneously.
Advantages of the official WhatsApp API
One of the most important advantages offered by the Application Programming Interface (API) is being able to attend several users at the same time from the same phone number as with any Helpdesk or CRM software on the market.
But WhatsApp Business API also allows automating a large part of routine conversations without human interaction and integrating the channel within the internal or external systems that the company uses. The interface can be connected to natural language processing applications, or systems that use machine learning and artificial intelligence to serve the best response at all times.
And if your idea is to use a chatbot WhatsApp Business API is the only way to incorporate it without having legal problems with Facebook (the owner of WhatsApp), since the use of any way to automate conversations with the other versions of the app it is not allowed under the applicable terms and conditions. The company reserves the right to limit or eliminate access to its platform and even to permanently suspend the account in the event of a serious violation of its policies.
It is clear that the use of the WhatsApp Business API offers important advantages for large companies allowing them to reduce costs or gain efficiency. Automations can free human agents from routine tasks so they can focus on more complex tasks, which add more value to users and the company itself.
Inconveniences of Whatsapp Business API
But all that glitters is not gold, because the API also has some drawbacks. The first one is that the company has to have the necessary knowledge and an adequate technological infrastructure to implement the API solution. If you do not have them, you can always choose to subcontract the corresponding services to a company authorized by Facebook.
The second drawback is that the user must start the conversation on WhatsApp first. Every time a client contacts a company by WhatsApp, a 24-hour window opens. During this period, the company can communicate with the user at no cost. All the message formats that WhatsApp allows can be used: texts, images, emojis, audios, videos, locations, contacts. In short, everything that can usually be sent from a personal WhatsApp.
Outside of this timeframe companies can only send notifications in text format called HMS templates. In addition, they can only send these notifications to users who have expressly given their consent to do so.
Templates must be previously approved by Facebook and cannot contain any commercial content. A limited number of large companies are allowed to send templates that partially contain an image, e.g. in the case of airline boarding passes.
These strict rules regarding the format of the templates ensure that WhatsApp Business is used especially for important messages that users want to receive such as notifications about the delivery of shipments, boarding passes, or appointment confirmations. Sending templates has a cost for the company and the rate varies from one country to another.
What is the price of the WhatsApp Business API?
The final price of the service depends on the official provider, because WhatsApp has an international network of official providers authorized to offer communication solutions for WhatsApp through the official WhatsApp Business API.
These companies may charge a price based on the number of users registered in the database, the volume of messages sent, or they may have a monthly fee that includes a maximum volume of messages per month.
In many cases, the monthly price must be added to the HMS templates sent during the month and whose rate varies from one country to another.
On the other hand, for customers who contact the company the service is free.
TIP: Both solutions are not mutually exclusive. In other words, a company can use the mobile app and the WhatsApp Business API at the same time, but the numbers linked to each solution must be different, because the accounts cannot use the same phone number.
Data protection and privacy
WhatsApp takes privacy protection very seriously, which is why it has such a strict commercial policy. Furthermore, it does not allow every type of company to market its products through its platform. Some cases seem pretty obvious e.g. the sale of weapons, or gambling. Other products that are not allowed can be somewhat surprising like the sale of wigs, or dietary supplements. Therefore, it is recommendable to check the complete list to see if your company meets Facebook’s business requirements.
Likewise, it is recommended to check the list of official providers before deciding to implement the official API. Unauthorized independent providers who offer services such as automated or bulk messaging do so in breach of the terms and conditions of Facebook (the owner of the WhatsApp service). If it is detected that you are using the services of an unauthorized provider, Facebook can block the number temporarily and even permanently.