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Messaging Using WhatsApp Business APIs - Let's Clear This Up

Messaging Using WhatsApp Business APIs - Let's Clear This Up

Tellephant

Tellephant

We’ve already gone through the differences between the WhatsApp Apps (personal and business) and the WhatsApp Business APIs in this blog. In this blog, we’ll be covering the types of messages you can send using WhatsApp’s Business APIs, the restrictions/limitations, and what’s possible and not.

The Two Types of Messages

There are mainly two types of messages you can send using WhatsApp’s Business APIs - template messages, and session messages.

1. Template Messages

Template messages, or Highly Structured Messages (HSMs for short), are nothing but pre-approved messages that you can send out to users. By pre-approved, we don’t mean that there’s only a certain set of approved messages from WhatsApp that you can send out to customers. Instead, it just means that these template messages that you send out need to be approved by WhatsApp before you can start sending them out to users. These templates can be personalized according to your need, and based on the customer that you’re reaching out to. Submitting templates for approval is quite an easy process, and can be done quite easily using the Template panel in our GUI.

There are a few restrictions/limitations that WhatsApp has in place for these messages. For one, WhatsApp doesn’t allow promotional content to get across (except in a select few countries where they’re experimenting with promotional messaging. To find out more about that, you can check out this blog). Keeping aside the select few countries where promotional messaging is allowed, WhatsApp strictly requires templates to be transactional in nature. Another thing to keep in mind is that content that looks spam-like and doesn't seem to have an obvious reason about the purpose of the message will be rejected by WhatsApp.

To give you a better idea of the types of messages you can send out, these are the categories templates should fall under - Account Update, Alert Update, Appointment Update, Auto Reply, Issue Resolution, Payment Update, Personal Finance Update, and Reservation Update.

Along with the type of content you can send out, another point to keep in mind is that you must have a customer’s consent before you can reach out to them with these messages. This can be done either by having them check a box on your website when they share their details that says “I agree to receive updates on WhatsApp”, or if they fill a Google Form with their details and check the same sort of agreement, or even just message your number first.

An HSM message essentially looks like this:

Hi {{1}}
Your order number {{2}} is out for delivery and will reach by {{3}}.

This template follows all the guidelines outlined by WhatsApp for template messages - it has a clear purpose as to why the customer is receiving, it’s updating a customer about their order, isn’t promotional, and doesn’t look like spam (You can find out more about templates and submitting templates in this guide).

When you send out the template, you can fill in the variables (in this case, three variables {{1}}, {{2}}, and {{3}}) according to the customer's details. Essentially, once sent, the message would look like this on the customer’s end:

Hi John
Your order number 12345 is out for delivery and will reach by the 4th of April.

Where {{1}} is “John”, {{2}} is “12345”, and {{3}} is “the 4th of April”

With templates, there’s different kinds of messages you can send - plain text messages like the example given above, media templates (where you can send out documents, images, videos, and locations along with text), and button templates (where you can send quick reply buttons, and CTA buttons as part of the message).

2. Session Messages

Once a customer responds to a template, or even messages you first, it means that the session window is open. What this means is that you’re able to send customers free text messages, and are not limited to only being able to send templates. Within this session window, you can send pretty much whatever content you want, including promotional and marketing material (obviously, you will still have to adhere to WhatsApp’s policies against abusive and NSFW content).

This session window is open for 24 hours from the customer’s last message. So for instance, if a customer has messaged you at 9 AM today, the session window is open till 9 AM tomorrow. Once this window is closed, you won’t be able to send free text. However, you can send out a template message to customers asking them if they still require assistance, for example, and once they respond, the window opens again.

To give you an idea of what happens in a session, for one, you can use it for all your customer support communication. If a customer messages you asking for help, since the session is open, you can have a conversation with them freely to sort out their issue. In fact, even chatbots fall under this session window. Since a customer messages your number first, the chatbot response falls within the session window, and since chatbot responses are instant, customers can have their entire conversation (be it buying a product, or just getting some quick help) within the session. That becomes helpful for you as a business since chatbots are able to respond any day, any time.

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