Innovative Alternatives to WhatsApp Newsletters

Is there an alternative to WhatsApp newsletters? WhatsApp is the most popular messenger service globally and companies have successfully been using WhatsApp to send messaging app newsletters for the past several years. That will soon be over – as of December 7, 2019, companies will no longer be officially allowed to send newsletters to their customers via WhatsApp.

The seven alternatives are:

How can companies use WhatsApp?

Starting in summer 2018, WhatsApp has offered an alternative to the WhatsApp newsletter: the WhatsApp Business API, which allows users and consumers to contact companies directly. Initially, this API was only available for selected companies, and only through a handful of WhatsApp Business Solution Providers such as MessengerPeople.

  1. One can differentiate between two main customer service functions in the WhatsApp Business API. With the customer service feature, companies can answer their customers’ questions in a WhatsApp chat. The number of chats is unlimited and free for both sides. However, if the customer’s last message in the chat is more than 24 hours old, the company will no longer be able to contact the customer.
  2. Notifications are the other feature, and play a role in customer communication outside of the 24-hour customer service window. They allow companies to send their customers messages – similar to an SMS or email message, but very tightly regulated. These “notifications” are chargeable outside the 24-hour window for the respective company and only permitted under certain conditions. Read more about WhatsApp Notifications in our WhatsApp Business API article: What are Notifications?.

No more WhatsApp newsletters – these are your alternatives:

If you don’t want to miss out on the advantages of push notifications via messaging apps, there are some exciting alternatives to WhatsApp newsletters: Facebook, Apple Business Chat, WeChat, and other services provide effective ways for companies to keep their customers up to date with the latest offers and information. Here you can find out which possibilities there are, and which advantages and disadvantages are hidden behind the services.

1) Facebook Messenger – Newsletter via Subscription or Sponsored Messages

Facebook Messenger is another top messaging app, with about 1.3 billion users globally, and is already used successfully by companies such as Lego, Sephora, UNICEF, and more. Facebook Messenger offers two different methods for companies to send news. For those who want to reach a broad audience, Facebook Messenger is the only real alternative to a WhatsApp newsletter:

1. Subscription Messages

  • Free for NPI (News Page Index) registered publishers
  • Subscribers must actively subscribe to the newsletter.
  • Contents may not contain advertising material. Event information, or news about sport, finance, economy, etc., as well as memory and personal trackers (fitness, health) are permitted.
  • Your company has to apply for the service

2. Sponsored Messages

  • Facebook Messenger also has a 24-hour customer service window, in which companies can respond to user messages with no costs. Outside of this window, companies can only communicate with users via fee-based Sponsored Messages.
  • Advertising content is allowed
  • Has to be booked via the Ad Manager and is fee-based
  • Your target groups can only contain users with whom you have previously been in contact via Facebook Messenger.

More information, examples and tips on Facebook Messenger can be found here: Messaging Apps & Brands: Facebook Messenger.

2) Apple Business Chat – 360-degree Service

Apple’s Business Chat function was introduced in 2018 and allows businesses the opportunity to communicate with customers and users personally and directly in the Messages App, which is native to all iOS devices. Apple offers two different use cases for the Business Chat.

Customer service via Apple Business Chat means that businesses can answer customer inquiries quickly, simply, and individually. Users and customers can talk to brands in 1:1 chat and no longer have to wait on e-mail responses, on hold on the telephone, or worry about calling during opening hours. The asynchronous communication also helps businesses offer more efficient service by handling multiple inquiries at one time.

Notifications also allow customers to send content in real time to their customers. These notifications are displayed directly on the customer’s lock screen. However, in order for brands to be able to send notifications, they must also offer customer service via Apple Business Chat.

Apple Business Chat offers companies a diverse array of features and use cases which can ensure that the entire customer journey can be supported by the dialogue in the Messages App. Integrated functions such as Apple Pay or appointment scheduling create an excellent customer experience and help customer service employees seamlessly offer great service.

3) WeChat – Messenger Newsletter in China

WeChat is the main messaging app in China and for Chinese nationals abroad. In the rest of the world, it’s rare that WeChat plays a main role. If you’re interested in using WeChat, it’s best to consult an expert on the Chinese market, to ensure that you’re finding the right strategy. We asked Sven from the agency Storymaker to write us a short guest article explaining the particularities of using WeChat for newsletters:

“On WeChat, newsletters are the basis of marketing on the platform. Other functions such as e-commerce, mini programs, CRM and more also run over WeChat, allowing companies a range of functions. In contrast to personal accounts, which run over the smartphone app, the company accounts, called “Official Accounts,” can be operated primarily on the desktop. They have their own features and mechanisms and are completely detached from the personal accounts. Official accounts, for example, cannot be invited into WeChat chat groups and the interaction from the customer’s point of view is completely different.

On WeChat there are two different types of business accounts, which are called Official Accounts. There are service accounts and subscription accounts. Simply put: subscription accounts are mainly for newsletters and content, service accounts are more for customer service, interaction and e-commerce. In practice, this means that subscription account newsletters appear in a separate subscription folder and that subscription accounts can send fans one newsletter daily.

Service accounts, on the other hand, can only send 4 newsletters a month to fans. However, they have much more visibility, because they are viewed together with the user’s personal contacts and chat groups. They also have additional programming interfaces to offer e-commerce, WeChat Pay and CRM connections.

WeChat already has over 20 million Official Accounts, most of which actively send newsletters to subscribers and fans. The newsletters themselves are completely different from personal chat messages, i.e. they are HTML-layout articles with animations and videos. One main post with up to 8 subposts can be published per newsletter. The individual newsletters can actually be as long as a small book. Content is king in WeChat and is currently becoming increasingly elaborate, creative and graphic. A given brand’s editorial staff will spend between 6 and 20 hours per WeChat article – or with video production, even more. There are no costs for publication on the platform.

In Germany there are already some brands that use WeChat newsletters to communicate with their Chinese target groups, such as the department store Breuninger, the Frankfurt airport, the Outlet City Metzingen. For German brands in China, of course, WeChat is standard practice for marketing.”


4) Viber – the WhatsApp Newsletter Alternative in the East

The purple messaging app, originally developed in Israel, is especially popular in Eastern Europe and Russia and is a good alternative to the WhatsApp newsletter. It offers companies the opportunity to reach a wide customer base. Users can follow their pages and receive newsletters, similar to on Facebook. Through a provider such as MessengerPeople, automated chatbots can be set up to interact with the customer after they have received an offer through a newsletter. The user does not have to initiate the chat here, but simply follow the page.

Viber Newsletter ScreenshotViber Newsletter Screenshot FC Barcelona

Even more Viber? Find out here: Everything else you should know about Viber!

5) Telegram – the secure messenger newsletter

Telegram is commonly regarded as a very secure messenger, due to its excellent end-to-end encryption (which is also used by WhatsApp). In the business area, companies can send newsletters and customers can pay directly via the platform.

The newsletter subscription process on Telegram is similar to WhatsApp: the customer clicks on the provided “Start” button and subscribes to the newsletter. This subscription can be terminated at any time using a command such as “Stop”. Telegram’s main advantage is the Discover area – companies can be found and subscribed to directly in the Telegram app.

Telegram Screenshot Newsletter

We’ve gathered all other important facts about Telegram here.

6) Threema Work – The internal company newsletter

Threema Work is an internal communication platform for companies, over which they can securely send internal newsletters. The Swiss messaging app offers the possibility to send a message to any number of recipients via feeds and distribution lists. Employees can subscribe and unsubscribe independently via feeds.

The option of an interactive chatbot enables the company to offer an “interactive information retrieval system”. Threema Work can also be used for company-relevant features such as scheduling, group chats or survey campaigns, and costs between €5 to €220 monthly.

Threema Work Screenshot

7) Notify: Push Notification for WhatsApp News

Companies may no longer send push messages via WhatsApp after December 7th – but they can reply to requests within 24 hours (“user writes first – company replies”). This mechanism is used by the new News App Notify: Subscribers receive push notification via Notify and then retrieve the content on WhatsApp with just one click.

Because of this easy way to continue providing users with relevant content, Notify has become very popular in a short amount of time and has made it to second place among the most popular news apps in Germany, it’s home country! 200,000 downloads and 50,000 daily active users show fast reach and commitment. Since all news channels are easy to find in the app, there’s an added avantage because it offers companies a new way to gather new users. In addition, Notify scores points in terms of data protection, no advertising and is free for both companies and users!


Notify News App Ranking

In home country Germany, Notify is rising to the top of the charts – and growing internationally as well!

Learn more about Notify here.

Alternatives for WhatsApp Newsletter? The bottom line:

Sure, WhatsApp was the number 1 for newsletters when it came to distribution, opening and click rates. The WhatsApp Business API no longer supports newsletters, but is promoting other exciting use cases for customer service and corporate communications. With 2 billion users worldwide, WhatsApp is the dominating communication channel, so a WhatsApp newsletter can’t really be completely replaced.

However, for those who don’t want to do without messaging app newsletters, we recommend Facebook Messenger or Apple Business Chat, which both have large reaches and can suit a broad customer base. Telegram, Threema, Viber, and WeChat are interesting possibilities depending on your target group – for companies with specific audiences that match the demographics of these more niche messaging apps, it can also be a great way to innovatively engage your customers. Notify is a special app which can work to great effect!

If you have any great ideas about professional usage of WhatsApp or other messaging apps, then get in touch with us (preferably via WhatsApp)!