At Tellephant, we get quite a few questions about the differences between the WhatsApp Business App, and the WhatsApp Business API. In this blog, we aim to explain everything you need to know about the WhatsApp Business API, and understand the differences between the app and the API.
WhatsApp offers three different products - WhatsApp App, WhatsApp Business App, and WhatsApp Business API. The WhatsApp App is basically the usual app that pretty much all of their users use, and everyone is generally familiar with. You have a phone number, create an account, and you can start chatting with people right away. In a similar fashion, WhatsApp Business App also works similarly in terms of setting up, and you can swap your normal account to a business account and vice versa without any issues. WhatsApp Business App gives you additional features, like listing business info and products, setting up a few quick replies, working hours, and an auto reply.
WhatsApp Business APIs work quite differently. For one, there is no front-end interface/app that you can use for this. Instead, users will have to use the WhatsApp APIs to integrate it into their business software, or make use of the interface provided by their Business Service Provider (BSP). The WhatsApp API is geared more towards medium to larger companies in mind, for reasons that will become apparent as we dive deeper into the service in this blog.
Unlike the Apps, setting up the WhatsApp Business APIs is not as straightforward as setting up an account on the app. Currently, WhatsApp has given direct access to their APIs to a handful of large companies. However, businesses that want to connect to the WhatsApp API still have the option to do so via BSPs or WhatsApp partners, and it’s much easier to get approved for an Official WhatsApp Business Account by applying through them.
The first step of the process is to get your Facebook Business Manager ID verified. Once verified, You’ll need to provide a number that you intend to use for WhatsApp. The number you use should not have a WhatsApp account linked to it, so you’ll need to delete the WhatsApp account if you wish to use an existing number, or use a fresh number. Unlike the WhatsApp App and the WhatsApp Business App, once you set up the Official WhatsApp Business API Account, you won’t be able to switch freely between the API and the App.
Besides that, there are a few other key differences. As mentioned earlier, WhatsApp API accounts don’t have mobile apps, so you’ll need to use the GUI provided by the BSP. You can still change your business information and details, however, you won’t be able to change the display name once the account is created (at least not freely). You’ll need to put in a request to get this done, and there would be another verification process to verify the new display name.
On the end user’s side of things, the account will look fairly similar to a WhatsApp Business Account, with the businesses info and details, which will still be editable.
Prices can vary from vendor to vendor. Essentially, you’ll need to sign up with a BSP to get a WhatsApp API Account. Unlike the Apps, WhatsApp Business API accounts aren’t free.
BSPs pay WhatsApp from their end to connect the WhatsApp’s APIs. Each live account is charged per month, regardless of whether the account is being used or not. Each BSP offers different pricings, based on what each BSP is charged per account from WhatsApp. On top of that, BSPs will have their additional charges to maintain each account from their end, as well as based on the additional features and services offered by them.
With the Official WhatsApp Business APIs, businesses can get their accounts verified with the green tick. Essentially, what this means is that accounts will show up with the display name and the verified green tick, even without the end user saving the business’s number on their phone.
However, there are a few caveats to this. For one, WhatsApp reserves the green tick verification for brands they consider noteworthy. They look for online media presence - from notable mentions, brand recognition, and accolades in media. Even then, there is no guarantee that the verification would go through. However, even if the verification doesn’t happen, the account itself is not affected in any way, and the business can reapply after 30 days from the initial rejection to get verified.
This service varies from vendor to vendor. Some vendors charge businesses to get this verification done, with no promises of the verification going through. Each subsequent application will also be charged as well. At Tellephant however, we do not charge for this service (as it is a free process from WhatsApp), and clients can apply for the green tick whenever they’d like, even after getting rejected.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of setting up your account, and the key differences between the App and the API, let’s get into what you can do with the WhatsApp APIs.
One of the features with the API is being able to proactively reach out to customers using template messages. Template messages are nothing but Highly Structured Messages (HSMs) which need to be pre approved from WhatsApp before you can start sending them out to customers. These messages are customisable and can be personalised with customers' details. THese messages aren’t just limited to text, but you can have media, documents, locations, quick reply buttons, and CTA buttons as well. For more details on templates, you can check out this page.
There are a few limitations with reaching out to customers, however. For one, WhatsApp doesn’t allow promotional or spam-like messages (you can find out more about promotional messages on this blog). WhatsApp does still want to protect its customers, and still has checks in place for this. Further, before you can reach out to customers, you do need to obtain consent from users to reach out to them. This could be as simple as customers ticking a checkbox where they agree to be contacted by you once they share their details, or even messaging you on WhatsApp first.
Plus, there are tier limits in place that define how many users you can reach out to in a 24 hour period. Every business starts out as a tier 1 account, where you can reach out to 1k unique contacts in a 24 hour period. This doesn’t limit how many users can reach out to you though.
As you keep messaging customers with quality messages, your account quality increases. Essentially, there are three ratings - red, yellow, and green. The quality rating ensures that businesses are driving high quality conversations, and sending high quality messages to their customers to avoid getting their number blocked or reported by them. When you’re consistently blocked or reported by contacts, your rating will drop from green, to yellow or red, and your account will get flagged. Plus, your account would be moved to a Flagged status.
This isn’t permanent, however, and businesses can rethink their messaging strategy to align with WhatsApp’s policies and requirements to get back to a high quality rating.
If your quality rating is high, you can upgrade to the next tier, based on your usage. FOr one, the total number of users you reach out to must add up to twice the current messaging limit within a 7 day period. For instance, if you message a total of 2,000 users within a 7-day period, your WhatsApp account will be upgraded to a tier 2 status. There are three tiers business account can be classified under:
With WhatsApp’s Business APIs, you can set up chatbots to automate conversations and customer experience flows on WhatsApp. Plus, with the ability to integrate with third party apps and platforms using APIs, you can essentially have complete, end-to-end conversations with customers directly on WhatsApp. For instance, in the case of e-commerce, by integrating with Shopify, you can start out by showing customers your products, let customers add items on their cart, and checkout on WhatsApp itself. Plus, by integrating with payment gateways, like Razorpay, you can even allow customers to pay for their orders, and send them confirmation messages, all from within a single chat.
Additionally, WhatsApp even allows for human escalation. Some customers may not like speaking to a bot, or a bot may not be enough to address their issues/queries. In this case, customers can request for a human agent to take over the conversation and handle customer issues. With this escalation option, you’re able to resolve customer queries effectively, giving customers the option to choose between both, according to their needs and preferences.
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