Understanding the Difference Between WhatsApp, WhatsApp Business, and WhatsApp Business API
If you want to use WhatsApp for marketing, understanding the difference between the basic WhatsApp, WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp business API is crucial. They are three different tools, aimed at different users.
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The regular WhatsApp app is made for personal communication. It’s freely available for both Android and iOS, and like other messaging apps, offers one-to-one chats and groups.
Give it access to your phone contacts and you can chat with the ones that also have a WhatsApp account. You can make voice and video calls via the app (not via the browser though).
There are not many business owners can do with regular WhatsApp messenger, however. There are no automation options and you can only contact the people whose phone numbers you have in your phone.
Only very small businesses can get away with using personal WhatsApp to contact customers. But as the business starts to grow, it'll need a more scalable option.
WhatsApp Business is a separate app aimed specifically at businesses.
WhatsApp Business provides basic tools for communication for micro and small businesses.
It’s still free to use and there’s a browser version. It offers the same basic features as the one for personal use — both sides can start chats, and you can participate in group chats.
A WhatsApp Business account is not the same as a standard one. While they can be on the same phone, they have to be tied to separate phone numbers.
For the business account, you can use a landline number as well as a mobile one. It’s a good idea to use a dual SIM phone to manage both from one device while keeping contact lists separate for compliance purposes.
Then, you can add an image, working hours, website, and physical address to your profile to present your business. Another great feature is the ability to create a product catalog within the WhatsApp Business app to showcase your products. It can include images, prices, and even links back to your site. The catalog can also be shared as one dedicated link.
Chats originating from a business account are indicated as such.
Business tools offered by WhatsApp for Business
Label conversations. WhatsApp Business lets you manage contacts with labels (e.g. new customer, complaint, loyal customer, urgent). This is useful when trying to keep track of conversations and when creating lists for WhatsApp broadcasts (see below).
Short links and QR codes. These open a direct chat with your business account. They can be shared across your channels as a quick way of contacting you.
Broadcasts. These are mass text message campaigns sent to a large number of contacts. It’s the WhatsApp equivalent of a newsletter or a promotional SMS notification. But with the Business app, you can only send a broadcast to 256 contacts at a time.
Choosing the contacts is not easy either. You can select them manually from your phone contacts list or use labels within the app. The last catch is that recipients must have your phone number saved to receive the broadcast. Otherwise, you can send as many such messages as you want in chunks of 256 contacts.
Automated messages. There are three kinds of automated WhatsApp messages available to speed up your communication on WhatsApp Business.
- Greeting messages can be set up to automatically respond to new chats. So when a user reaches out to you, they’re invited to keep chatting even if you personally cannot answer at the moment.
- Away messages serve as automated responses to inquiries outside of working hours or when your business is closed for vacation.
- Quick replies are saved answers like “Orders take 2 business days to prepare” or “Thank you for shopping with us!” so you can quickly input them from a menu in individual chats when you get a frequently asked question.
WhatsApp Business API is a different service from the WhatsApp Business app. If you’re wondering, an API connects two different software programs so they can work together.
The WhatsApp Business API gives access to the full range of WhatsApp marketing tools and is aimed at mid-sized and large businesses. Sendinblue offers a WhatsApp Campaigns feature.
The WhatsApp Business API doesn’t have its own interface, it uses the front-end of the platform it’s connected to. This can be your CRM or email marketing platform. Essentially, it makes WhatsApp usable in conjunction with other marketing tools. For example, using a live chat platform to manage communication from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp in one place.
You also get many additional features on top of WhatsApp Business that open up huge opportunities for marketing communication.
Unlike WhatsApp Business, the API offers unlimited users and devices under one account. This makes customer support and messenger marketing a lot more effective.
You can’t just sign up for WhatsApp and start using its API features. You need to apply for an account through a WhatsApp partner and provide information about your business to get verified.
On top of that, you can submit another application for a green tick mark to appear next to your business name in chats. It adds legitimacy in the eyes of your recipients.
A major difference between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API is the way contacts are handled. With the API, they’re imported from the CRM or another marketing platform where your opt-in lists are stored.
Consent to WhatsApp marketing is gathered in two ways: WhatsApp users message the business account first, or they tick an opt-in box for WhatsApp specifically in a signup form. Contacts that didn’t consent to be contacted via WhatsApp cannot be messaged through the API. This protects the customer experience on the app.
Types of messages you can send via WhatsApp API
First, it’s important to note that no voice or video calls are possible through the API. Also, you can present your brand in a business profile just like with the WhatsApp Business app. Overall, the API is a messaging alternative (or additional channel) to email marketing.
So what are the differences between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API?
- Session messages
Someone (customer, lead, contact) starts a chat with your business account. You have 24 hours to answer or the chat expires. If the person messages you back, the 24 hours reset and so on. These are session messages in WhatsApp. The idea is to give the customer control over the communication — if they don’t want to chat with you anymore, that’s that.
- Broadcast messages
Broadcast messages must follow the template guidelines and need to be approved by WhatsApp before sending to protect recipients from spam. The good news is, unlike WhatsApp Business, via the API you can broadcast to as many contacts as you want and they don’t have to have your number saved to receive the message.
- WhatsApp groups
Via the WhatsApp Business API, you can create and manage group chats, but can’t participate in them. Also, contacts must be invited via a special message to join, you can’t just add them to a group. It’s all to protect people from spam and unsolicited messages.
The first 1,000 WhatsApp chats monthly are free. Then, each 24-hour-long session is charged as one unit. The rate depends on the recipient’s country code. Charges go through WhatsApp partners, similar to SMS marketing plans. So expect a little markup on top of these rates for providing the service.
All these differences position WhatsApp Business API as a tool for larger companies with bigger teams and more complex marketing needs. Find out more about how WhatsApp API pricing works.
To use WhatsApp for customer support, order updates, and marketing campaigns, consider working with a WhatsApp partner that will provide you with WhatsApp Business API.