7 June 2021
7 June 2021
You probably are an existing WhatsApp user for your personal communication needs, and you might have heard of WhatsApp Business that is made for businesses to communicate with their leads and customers.
But have you also heard of WhatsApp Business API?
Who are they built for? What are their similarities and differences? Which one should you use?
Read on to find out how these two offerings from WhatsApp differ. 👇
We all know what WhatsApp is — an instant messaging platform for personal communication with fellow users over the internet through mobile devices or computers.
On the other hand, WhatsApp Business is built for smaller businesses for business communications and sales. It is largely similar to regular WhatsApp, but has additional features to support business communication needs.
You can have both regular WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business on the same phone, but on different apps for personal and business needs respectively.
Both apps will require an active phone number to register for an account, but you can also use your landline to create your WhatsApp Business account. If you are a small business owner, you can choose to use your personal phone number for WhatsApp Business.
Both apps are free for download and use on your iOS or Android device, and have similar user interfaces that you will find intuitive to use.
Both apps use your phone to access its existing contacts and to create new ones.
You can consider using a phone that supports dual SIM cards to separate phone numbers and contacts, all while using the same device.
WhatsApp Business offers the same text messaging features as regular WhatsApp, including file sharing capabilities.
You will find the familiar WhatsApp chat interface on WhatsApp Business as well. Likewise, sending emojis and stickers, having instant in-app URL preview, and in-app video player are all also available in WhatsApp Business.
WhatsApp Group is a 2-way communication feature where up to 256 members share a common chat to send public messages. Both regular WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business accounts can create groups, become admins, and participate in WhatsApp Group chats.
WhatsApp Broadcast is a 1-way communication feature where you can simultaneously send messages to a compiled list of up to 256 recipients, but messages appear in separate, private chats. Do note, however, that WhatsApp Business accounts can only broadcast template messages, and require WhatsApp’s approval before you can send it out.
You are not restricted to your mobile device for using both apps. WhatsApp Web allows users to access WhatsApp messaging straight from their web browsers, so that you can use your computer to communicate to both friends and clients.
Voice and video calls can be made to another user on WhatsApp using your mobile device in both apps. Do note that the browser-based WhatsApp Web does not support voice and video calls.
Apart from accessing both apps through WhatsApp Web, you can also download the desktop application to use WhatsApp as an app on your computer, which also supports voice and video calls.
A screen capture of WhatsApp desktop application
However, there is currently no official desktop application for WhatsApp Business.
Since WhatsApp is made for personal communication and WhatsApp Business for business communication, you will find more robust features for WhatsApp Business.
For WhatsApp Business, you can set up your business profile to include your brand logo, business name and category that best represents your business. You can then add in the description of your business, your working hours, location, business website URL and your business catalog.
An example of a WhatsApp Business business profile. Source: WhatsApp
When users open up a chat with your WhatsApp Business account, they will receive a notification that informs them that they are chatting with a dedicated business account.
While WhatsApp will only link 1 account to 1 device, you can have 2 devices connected to 1 WhatsApp Business account.
Under the in-app tab ‘Business Tools’, you will find 3 types of semi-automated messaging settings for you to set up.
Greeting message: You can set up this generic message to auto-respond to new incoming chats or to conversations that have no activity after 14 days.
Away message: This second automatic reply message can be set according to a schedule, such as your working hours. It is helpful to inform your leads or customers outside of working hours that you have received their message and will respond to them as soon as possible
Quick reply templates: You can customize several message templates that can be inserted into your chat box by using the assigned keyword after ‘/’.
For example, you can set up the quick reply keyword ‘/thanks’ with the message template ‘Thank you for shopping with us! We hope to see you again soon!’, and use it at the end of every successful sale over a WhatsApp chat.
An example of WhatsApp Business quick replies feature. Source: WhatsApp
Quick replies are useful for such commonly used phrases, and for answering frequently asked questions.
The WhatsApp Business catalog allows you to set up your business product or service for easy viewing and sharing within WhatsApp.
Found under ’Business Tools’, you can insert a product picture and name of product in your catalog.
You can also choose to add in its price, a short description of the item, and links to redirect users to your website for more detailed viewing.
An example of WhatsApp Business business catalog feature. Source: WhatsApp
Each catalog item will have a dedicated Catalog Link, which can be shared in your chats with prospects, leads and customers for viewing within WhatsApp.
Do note that this WhatsApp Business catalog is only for sharing and viewing. WhatsApp Business currently does not support in-app purchasing and transactions.
Similar to email labels, you can set up chat labels in WhatsApp Business to tag different chats for easy identification. For example, you can set up labels according to which stage of the sales cycle the contact is, or according to which industry the customer is from.
An example of WhatsApp Business chat labels. Source: WhatsApp
This URL that opens a WhatsApp conversation with you can be deployed in your websites, emails, or social media sites. It is unique and dedicated only to your specific WhatsApp Business account created.
You can view the same message receipts in a regular WhatsApp chat, but as an overview for your entire WhatsApp Business account. This is helpful to measure the effectiveness of your WhatsApp Business account, by looking at the number of messages sent, received, and read.
Application Programming Interface (API) is the term used to describe a software intermediary that allows two applications to interact with one another.
As such, WhatsApp Business API allows users to send and receive WhatsApp messages while using other software.
Unlike WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business, WhatsApp Business API is built for medium and large businesses. It does not have a predefined front-end user interface, so there’s no fixed app or appearance. Instead, it is specially catered to be integrated with other existing software in your business.
With WhatsApp Business API, you will still be able to create your business profile for WhatsApp users’s viewing. It shares the same type of content as a WhatsApp Business business profile.
Since its purpose is to still ultimately reach customers via WhatsApp, WhatsApp Business API supports regular text messaging features found in WhatsApp. Text messaging, location sharing, file sharing, emojis, stickers and message receipts are all still available.
Similar to WhatsApp Business’ broadcast feature, you are not allowed to broadcast marketing content through your WhatsApp Business API. This means that you are limited to certain types of messages, such as customer service chats or announcement messages.
You can also preset messages to be sent when using WhatsApp Business API. However, these template messages are subjected to approval by WhatsApp, just like WhatsApp Business’ broadcast message templates.
Since WhatsApp Business API is built for larger businesses with dedicated teams and large pools of customers, multiple users can concurrently use WhatsApp Business API to chat, share location and files with customers.
Your business profile will also carry a green tick beside it to show that your business has been verified by WhatsApp and deemed legitimate.
WhatsApp Business API is designed to be connected to your messaging software or your CRM tool. In other words, it is intended for integration with your existing business software so that you can directly send WhatsApp messages from there.
As such, contact retrieval and automation capabilities are dependent on your messaging software or CRM tool.
Some benefits include centralized dashboard and inboxes, automated retrieval and synchronization of contacts, and further integration with analytic tools.
Since WhatsApp messaging in your business software is achieved through API, WhatsApp does not offer a separate dedicated mobile app to access your WhatsApp Business API.
Once again, you will have to rely on your existing messaging software or CRM tool for mobile messaging.
WhatsApp requires consent from customers before businesses can message them via WhatsApp Business API. This is done in two ways:
Voluntary conversation: The customer chooses to text the business WhatsApp number first.
Checkbox opt-in: Customers must explicitly consent to be contacted by businesses by agreeing in a checkbox on any platform where customer information is collected. For example, on an online shopping website, customers agree to be updated about their purchase via WhatsApp, after indicating their payment details on the checkout page.
Otherwise, businesses using WhatsApp Business API cannot initiate chats with contacts.
There are two types of messages that can be sent from WhatsApp Business API.
Session messaging: Available only after a customer initiates a conversation with your business, you will have a 24-hour window to chat with the customer. This means that you can share all types of content in that chat, including marketing content. The 24-hour window is refreshed after every incoming message from the customer.
In other words, your customers are in the driver's seat. They determine whether to continue the conversation with you.
Before or after this 24-hour window, you can only send the second type of message:
Template messaging: If you are initiating contact with your customers, you can only send preset message templates to them. These templates will require pre-approval by WhatsApp before you are able to send them, so as to regulate messages according to their guidelines to protect the WhatsApp user experience.
Additionally, WhatsApp Business API can only create and manage groups. The account currently cannot be added into a WhatsApp Group, and cannot participate in the group chat. Furthermore, group members can only be added to these groups created by a WhatsApp Business API account via an invitation message.
Unlike WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business, WhatsApp Business API does not support voice and video calling features.
On a positive note, you can broadcast your template messages to any number of recipients. Unlike the broadcast limit of 256 recipients found in WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business, this capability was designed keeping in mind that larger businesses have large pools of customers.
However, limitless as it may be, you may want to thoughtfully consider how many template messages you wish to broadcast, because...
WhatsApp Business API is a paid service.
The factors that determine the pricing for WhatsApp Business API includes price per message, message bundles based on the volume of session messages and template messages, and even by the number of monthly active users.
The pricing models vary greatly, depending on the messaging needs of your business. These pricing models are not determined by WhatsApp itself, but instead through WhatsApp Partners. Which brings us to the next point:
You have to submit an application to WhatsApp to use WhatsApp Business API through WhatsApp Partners.
WhatsApp Partners are business solution providers that work with WhatsApp to provide businesses with services to connect with the WhatsApp Business API. It is easier to receive an approval for your application when working through these business solution providers.
The application process for WhatsApp Business API has 3 broad steps. Choose your preferred WhatsApp Partner, and submit your company’s information for WhatsApp’s review. If WhatsApp gives its approval, you can then activate a business number with your chosen WhatsApp Partner and begin using WhatsApp Business API.
Once your application is approved by WhatsApp, your medium to large-sized business can begin using WhatsApp Business API on your existing messaging software or CRM tool, to send session messages or template messages, depending on the number of messages determined in your pricing model with your chosen WhatsApp Partner.
That’s quite a list of conditions surrounding the use of WhatsApp Business API. 🤯
At this point, you may be overwhelmed by the limitations of WhatsApp Business API.
Or perhaps you are a small business owner that is looking to overcome some of the limitations in WhatsApp Business.
Consider then, to use NovoChat, an omnichannel chat solution that also uses WhatsApp API, but without the hassle!
Remember how you’ll need to wait for approval from WhatsApp before you can send template messages?
Insert placeholders to make your broadcast messages even more personalized, and set up send schedules for even more timely broadcasting of WhatsApp messages! 😋
As a browser-based solution, NovoChat has a centralized inbox for all your chats across all supported messaging platforms. This means that all users from the same business can access the same NovoChat account, and handle all messaging communications from a common location!
In the NovoChat inbox, you can open a pop-up to type in your message when initiating a new conversation.
Otherwise, converse with your customers with a regular chat interface!
Other features in NovoChat include contacts tagging to label each chat, auto-replies, and auto-assignment to route each incoming conversation with the respective business representative.
Use NovoChat to not just integrate for WhatsApp, but with other popular messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, LINE, and Telegram!
You should keep the regular WhatsApp exclusively for personal use, and keep it separate from your business’ customer-facing communications.
Small business owners should definitely use WhatsApp Business if they haven’t already done so. Using a dedicated business number on this free app will improve customer’s perception of your professionalism.
Having WhatsApp Business on your mobile will help you to respond to queries promptly, supported by its business-specific features like the business catalog and semi-automation.
As your business grows, we think that it is okay to still stay on WhatsApp Business app as long as you have no more than 2 customer-facing representatives, since WhatsApp Business supports up to 2 devices per account.
However, once your customer-facing team grows beyond that, you should strongly consider other alternatives that support API with WhatsApp. We recommend small businesses to consider adopting NovoChat, for it meets the communication needs of growing teams, without the hassle nor the heavy price tag of WhatsApp Business API.
There is no need to abandon your existing WhatsApp Business account just because you have grown to a larger team size. With NovoChat, you can keep your existing WhatsApp Business account - NovoChat integrates with it and provides features that support a larger team. Use such communication solutions until your business’ communications needs reach greater complexities that require more complicated solutions.
WhatsApp Business API requires you to either use your CRM tool or messaging platform to integrate with. Small businesses should NEVER adopt a CRM tool just for the sake of using WhatsApp Business API.
Instead, your business will organically adopt an appropriate CRM tool as it grows even more. As you find your business turning into a medium-sized business, your team members would have already fully adopted the CRM tool into their everyday workflows.
When you’ve reached this stage, you will find yourself with more complex communications needs. You should then choose a suitable business solution provider to integrate WhatsApp Business API and other communication solutions, such as call solutions, with your CRM tool.
To sum it up, you should scale your communication solutions in tandem with the growth of your business.
There remains a significant gap between what WhatsApp Business offers for small businesses, and WhatsApp Business API for medium and large enterprises. Choose a suitable alternative business solution provider while your small business is still growing.
That’s all for our comparison between the 3 kinds of WhatsApp software! 🎉
With its immense number of users, WhatsApp is definitely a platform for businesses to leverage on to reach their leads and customers.
If you’d like to have a hassle-free use of WhatsApp API and integrate a software with your existing WhatsApp Business account, get started with NovoChat for free and try it for yourself! ✨
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