WhatsApp Business API Overview
With the new WhatsApp Business API, WhatsApp now also allows bigger companies the opportunity to contact their customers directly over WhatsApp. WhatsApp still doesn’t support advertising, but it is creating more possibilities in the world of messenger customer service.
In our overview we’ve gathered all the facts about the WhatsApp Business App, the WhatsApp Business API, advertising over WhatsApp, and WhatsApp Chatbots:
With the official WhatsApp for Business launch at the beginning of this year, WhatsApp first opened itself up for business use. The app offered small businesses an official tool through which they could get in contact with their customers.
Verified accounts, quick replies, pre-set answers, automatic away messages and welcome messages, company information such as opening hours and contact info, and labels for different types of customers – this was the range of the first WhatsApp Business tool.
For use by big companies, though, a few key features were missing: user management, role management, ticket systems, targeting, and APIs for existing systems. Additionally, WhatsApp Business didn’t offer for a solution for topics that are essential for big companies. The entire data protection conversation fell into this missing category, as well as up-front consulting and customer service.
At the F8 conference, David Marcus – at that time, the head of the Messenger Program – announced that WhatsApp was already working on a solution for bigger businesses.
“As far as advertising is concerned, we’re definitely getting WhatsApp more open. We’re now going to have the ability to enable larger companies, not only small businesses, to integrate a new API to send and receive messages with people on the Whatsapp platform.“
As WhatsApp has just announced, there will now be an API over which WhatsApp users can contact businesses. Currently, the Facebook-Offspring is only offering this interface to a handful of verified partners and selected companies. To contact or be contacted by the company, WhatsApp users will have to consent to the communication, thus fulfilling the GDPR requirements. Moreover, the messages will still have end-to-end encryption, so neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can read them.
As we predicted, and TechCrunch has recently learned, WhatsApp is also planning to run ads on the WhatsApp status stories. However, these will only be implemented next year: “WhatsApp is not currently implementing ads in the Status, although it is a goal for us from 2019 onwards”
WhatsApp does offer one advertisement option, but only as classic display ads on Facebook, and not in the Chat mailbox like in Facebook Messenger. Instead, businesses can buy Facebook newsfeed ads that will have the ability to start WhatsApp conversations.
“Since the launch of the WhatsApp Business App people have told us that it is faster and easier to chat with a business instead of calling them or sending an email” reports a statement from WhatsApp
You can choose between two customer service functions in the WhatsApp Business API:
- With the “Customer Service” function companies can answer client questions in a WhatsApp chat. The number of messages is unlimited and free for both sides. However: if the last message in a chat is more than 24 hours old, the business cannot continue contacting the company.
- Notifications are the major player in communication outside of the 24-hour customer service timeframe. The notifications allow a company to send customers information in a form similar to a message or an email. The businesses are charged for these “notifications” and can only send them under certain conditions, which are very narrowly defined.
Why is WhatsApp focusing on customer service?
In order to understand the emphasis on customer focus, it’s important to know that WhatsApp is extremely successful in countries such as Brazil and India, where professional communication between business and customer is more starkly focused on messengers. Email or phone calls are far behind WhatsApp in terms of popularity. Often companies in these countries don’t use websites or even apps.
Additionally, digital and global trends are developing with a tendency towards 1:1 customer service over chat. The communications agency Edelman recently published their annual Trust Barometer. One of the main takeaways was that messenger customer service was ranked as more convincing than advertisement. The results of further studies – including one from Facebook itself, with the topic “More than a message“ – that show that customers prefer to get in touch with companies over WhatsApp. WhatsApp’s focus on customer service is the logical conclusion.
Chatbots allow companies to automate dialogues over messengers like WhatsApp. WhatsApp Chatbots can be specifically helpful for customer service. They offer decisive savings in costs and resources, and help companies offer their customers a better service. Using Chatbots in customer service over WhatsApp will be regulated just like other messages: messages from a Chatbot will be free within the 24-hour conversation window, as described above.
No! In contrast to recent lurid headlines, the truth is that WhatsApp is not planning to charge WhatsApp users for the messaging service. The 1 dollar yearly fee was already done away with in 2016, and hasn’t been reintroduced. From a business sense, it would be unsensible to introduce fees, since the ever-growing user rates are the company’s biggest asset.
WhatsApp Business API is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved: more services for customers, professional opportunity for companies, and a first, sustainable revenue model for WhatsApp. For customers and WhatsApp, the news presents a great scenario. How quickly and professionally companies will get used to the new channel and its challenges, is still to be seen.
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