How to use WhatsApp Business as a company: everything you need to know
WhatsApp offers two compelling solutions for enterprises, “WhatsApp for Business” and “WhatsApp Business Platform”. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about WhatsApp Business: how it works, what it costs, what benefits it has to offer, and whether you’d rather use the WhatsApp Business App or the WhatsApp Business Platform.
Communicating through WhatsApp can be confusing because the messenger offers several versions of the service. There’s the regular WhatsApp messenger app for private usage, but for companies there are actually two business solutions. One is “WhatsApp for Business”, a free service specifically for small businesses. The other one is the enterprise version called “WhatsApp Business Platform” (former API) which offers professional tools, scalability, and data compliance for medium and large companies.
In this guide, we’ll look in more detail at the WhatsApp ecosystem, the different business solutions, and at the pros and cons of the different versions.
In this article, you’ll discover:
- The WhatsApp Ecosystem
- What’s a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider?
- How to get access to the WhatsApp Business Platform?
- What are the capabilities of the WhatsApp Business Platform?
- How can I use WhatsApp in the Customer Journey?
- Can I build a chatbot on WhatsApp?
- How do I get a WhatsApp account for businesses?
- How do I get the verification / official business account (green tick) on WhatsApp?
- What do I have to pay attention to by using WhatsApp Business regarding data protection?
- What are the benefits of WhatsApp Business for companies?
1) WhatsApp Business App vs. WhatsApp Business Platform
“WhatsApp for businesses has enabled us to reach our customers quickly and effectively. This is a great example of how technology creates customer-centric experiences.”
Saujanya Shrivastava, Group Chief Marketing Officer at MakeMyTrip
We all know the “WhatsApp app” from our private communications with our friends and family. However, there are also business versions of the messenger service availabe. In the business and enterprise sector, official solutions from WhatsApp have been available since 2018. There are actually two possibilities for businesses to use WhatsApp, the app for businesses and a business platform!
1a) WhatsApp app: for private use only
✋⛔ As handy as the regular WhatsApp messenger is: this app is for private communication only. It’s not possible to use it in a business context. Firstly, because the WhatsApp terms explicitly exclude the commercial use of the app. And secondly, because data protection isn’t guaranteed!
Companies are threatened with warnings from competitors and data protection authorities (with possibly very high fines) as well as with getting their WhatsApp and even Facebook accounts blocked! That’s where the business solutions come in.
1b) The WhatsApp Business App: The free app for small businesses
WhatsApp Business is a free app designed specifically for small business owners. The business app offers these features:
- verified WhatsApp account
- text templates
- product catalog
- opening hours, etc.
So, you can use it to create a catalog to showcase your products and services or to show customers your business hours. There are also a few text templates that you can use to automate responses to a certain level and quickly respond to messages. Overall, the business app makes it easier to communicate with customers. However, there are also quite a few shortcomings of the app.
👎 The disadvantages of the WhatsApp Business App:
- Data protection ist not guaranteed!
- Requires a smartphone, which is problematic if other co-workers need to have access.
- Multiple users at different locations not possible.
- No advanced automation possible, for example with chatbots.
Conclusion: The free WhatsApp Business app is a decent solution for small businesses like cafés, florists, consultants, or personal trainers. So, if you have a maximum of one to three employees, don’t take the issue of data protection too seriously and want to use WhatsApp for businesses free of charge, it might work for you!
1c) WhatsApp Business Platform: scalable WhatsApp solution for mid-sized and large businesses
As the regular business app doesn’t work for many businesses, in August 2018, WhatsApp launched a business solution for larger companies, the official WhatsApp Business Platform (API), an application programming interface where businesses can link their messengers to the official app interface.
The API is designed for medium and large companies. Unlike the app, the Platform is not free of charge and companies usually need “WhatsApp Business Solution Providers” like MessengerPeople by Sinh to get access to the API interface.
With the features of the WhatsApp Business Platform, we take our customer support to the next level. Thanks to MessengerPeople by Sinch, the connection was quick and easy.
Take your business to the next level with WhatsApp Business Platform
Tips, best cases, and KPIs that show how to use messaging apps to grow your business.
2) What is a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider?
Meta doesn’t allow just anybody to access their WhatsApp interface. It only grants permission to certain companies. These companies, called WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSP), are the link between the API and a company that wants to use WhatsApp for their business communication.
These providers give companies access to the WhatsApp Business interface, and enable them to use WhatsApp in a professional and scalable manner to achieve their business goals. MessengerPeople by Sinch is one of the companies that belongs to the select group of WhatsApp BSPs.
3) How to get access to the WhatsApp Business Platform?
There are three ways for companies to get access to the WhatsApp Business Platform:
A) Direct access: In order to gain direct access, Meta needs to grant you permission directly, so good luck! In addition, you also need your own IT infrastructure, your own servers, and then have to build the complete software or CRM integration yourself. This is a suitable option for companies that have many developer resources and very individual needs!
B) Interface of an API vendor: Here, the interface is provided by a Business Solution Provider. Companies still require their own development team and IT resources to implement the solution though.
C) Use professional software-as-a-service solution: If you want to use WhatsApp for your company right away, without needing to invest in IT resources, and have 100% data protection guaranteed, MessengerPeople by Sinch offers you a ready-to-use software solution! With the Messenger Communication Platform, companies receive a software solution with an intuitive interface that is ready to go for customer communication. This is worthwhile for all companies with ten or more employees.
We experienced MessengerPeople’s solution as very easy to use, and the price-performance ratio was also right. That’s why we decided quickly which provider we would choose.
Stefan Gehrig, Head of Customer Service at the German energy provider Harz Energie
4) What can you do with the WhatsApp Platform?
For a long time, WhatsApp newsletters were very popular. Then, in December 2019, WhatsApp stopped the service due to a lot of unwanted messages and spam. Due to popular demand (it’s the most popular communication channel between businesses and customers, after all!), WhatsApp brought the newsletter back in 2021. In addition, you can also use the API for customer care, notifications, and boosting your e-commerce sales.
WhatsApp newsletters open up the door to conversational commerce, and offer a very high click-through-rate. With the WhatsApp newsletter, you can send your customers special offers, important information or relevant news. With the WhatsApp Business Platform you can use templates for newsletters or create your own (approval needed!) In order to be compliant with data safety, newsletters also now require an active opt-in confirmation by users.
Keep in mind that the new WhatsApp newsletter is not free of charge anymore. If a user initiates contact (user-initiated) with your business, the cost is lower than if you initiate the first contact (buiness-initiated). The actual cost varies by country. However, in February 2022 WhatsApp announced that the first 1,000 conversations are free.
Customer care is another interesting option for communicating with your customers through the API. In this case, the customer contacts the company first. This could be a case in the consulting department (“I have a question about product XY”), or after the purchase (“How can I use the product, how can I return the product?”).
If the user contacts the company via WhatsApp, the company has 24 hours to respond, otherwise, WhatsApp counts it as two conversations (and charges more).
E-Commerce can be another way of successfully using the WhatsApp Business Platform for your company. Especially in combination with a product catalog, WhatsApp can be the gateway to conversational commerce, for example when a customer sees a product in the store, and contacts a business to ask more questions about it.
Some companies even use WhatsApp to create a curated shopping experience for their customers, and thus boost their online sales.
5) How can I use WhatsApp in the customer journey?
WhatsApp can be used by companies throughout the entire customer journey. From marketing at the beginning, to consulting, ordering, customer service, loyalty, and advocacy, WhatsApp offers a wide range of possibilities.
💡 Find out how messaging apps can be used along the customer journey.
6) Can I build a chatbot on WhatsApp?
You can only program chatbots on the WhatsApp Business Platform! WhatsApp Business does not offer this feature!
Especially at the beginning of a sales or service conversation the same information is requested from every single customer. By using WhatsApp chatbots as first-level support — right at the beginning — customers get the first answer faster and companies save valuable resources.
❗️Note: Since November 2020 companies must ensure that a WhatsApp bot can hand off customers to a human agent. This can be done by handover to a human agent in chat, by providing a telephone number or e-mail, by web support or support form. MessengerPeople’s chatbot builder allows you to quickly and easily create an efficient chatbot that ensures this handover to a human agent.
WhatsApp chatbots can be extremely useful in communication:
- They are available 24/7 and never sick or on vacation
- You can constantly learn and improve
- They are very fast — but also patient when the customer has no time
- They never forget — they remember certain data
- They are low-maintenance because unlike apps they do not need to be constantly updated to new operating systems
💡 Tip: Are you interested in building your first messenger bot? It’s easy! Find out what a WhatsApp chatbot is, and how to quickly build your first chatbot that’s ready to go right away.
7) How do I get a WhatsApp account for businesses?
Any account that uses WhatsApp Business is automatically listed as a “corporate account”. So when you become a MessengerPeople by Sinch customer, you automatically get a business account!
- The basic requirement for using the “WaBa” Platform is a verified WhatsApp company profile, which is created through the Facebook Business Manager.
- In the second step, companies need a telephone number that is assigned to the WhatsApp customer service channel. Mobile and landline numbers are possible.
- On the Facebook Developer page, WhatsApp provides detailed explanations of the technical implementation. If companies decide to work with a WhatsApp BSP, such as MessengerPeople by Sinch, the provider takes care of the complete technical connection and offers comprehensive support.
8) How do I get the verification / official business account (green badge) on WhatsApp?
Normally, companies can’t apply or pay to have a ” Business Account” converted to an “Official Business Account”, and, for example, get the green check mark for verified business accounts! WhatsApp says officially:
At this time only certain company accounts are listed as “Official Business Account”. Listing a company as an “Official Business Account” is based on a variety of factors, such as whether the brand is significant.
✔✔ BUT: Our customers can request this verification from WhatsApp for the official business account through a form provided by us.
9) What data protection aspects do I have to consider when using WhatsApp?
The use of WhatsApp for companies on one single smartphone is problematic. For several reasons, this violates data protection laws.
It’s only with the WhatsApp Platform that data protection is guaranteed through business solution providers, such as MessengerPeople by Sinch.
In general, there are no restrictions on which data companies and customers exchange via messenger apps like WhatsApp. It’s important that the company explains in detail in advance what happens to the data and that the customer’s legitimation is provided.
Carsten Ulbricht, social media lawyer
10) What are the benefits of WhatsApp Business for companies?
- Official and verified business profile
- Guaranteed end-to-end encryption and data compliant-compliant communication
- Many ways to get in touch with your customers (customer service, consulting, marketing)
Benefits for customers:
- Availability: WhatsApp is my preferred communication channel anyway.
- Simple: I chat fast, directly, and easily.
- Flexible: I communicate (without waiting in a customer hotline loop) exactly when it suits me.
- Cross-device usage: I start the chat on the desktop in the office and then take it with me on the smartphone on the go.
- Multimedia: I can easily send videos, pictures or voice messages, and explain my problem better.
- Speed: I get a fast and good answer.
- Binding: should I have a question later, both the contact and the dialogue are still available.
Benefits for companies:
- Reach: you use an app that is used by over 2 billion people worldwide.
- Efficiency: you answer inquiries on average 60 percent faster than by phone or e-mail (short and without much bla bla).
- Automation: through automation, you can be even up to 80 percent more efficient.
- Costs: you save the costs for expensive call centers and old CRM systems.
- Privacy: you enjoy customer communication without public shit storms, trolls, and with much more honest feedback.
- Employees: your service employees are happy—because customer contact via WhatsApp is much more positive and motivating.
- Customer loyalty: as part of the WhatsApp contact list, you belong to the inner circle of your customers.
- Success: your customers are happy, your Net Promoter Score rises, and your business becomes a complete success!