WhatsApp Business API: How the WhatsApp Business Platform works for businesses
As a company, you want to use WhatsApp in customer communication, but you don’t know how to implement it in a privacy-compliant and scalable way? That’s exactly what the WhatsApp Business API is for. We explain how the WhatsApp Business Platform works, what advantages it offers and what you can expect in terms of costs.
Your customers want to communicate with you via WhatsApp and you see great potential to reach them better, improve customer satisfaction and relieve your customer service, but you wonder how you can implement this practically (and privacy compliant!)? Then you need the WhatsApp Business Platform ( previously: WhatsApp Business API)!
But what exactly is it? What is the difference between the regular WhatsApp App and WhatsApp Busines? How do other companies use the platform? In the following guide, we explain everything you as a company need to know about the WhatsApp Business API.
In this article you will learn:
- WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp Business API: What’s the difference?
- Special features of the WhatsApp Business API
- How can you use the API?
- From recruiting to e-commerce: these companies use the WhatsApp Business API in practice
- How to get access to the WhatsApp Business Platform
For a long time, WhatsApp was a messenger app intended only for private use, for example to send messages, videos and photos to friends and acquaintances.
But in 2018, Meta opened up the app for commercial use as well. Since then, there have been two ways for businesses to use WhatsApp for customer communications: the WhatsApp Business app and the WhatsApp Business API.
The regular app is still banned for commercial use!
But what is the difference between WhatsApp Business and the WhatsApp Business API (since 2022: WhatsApp Business Platform)?
WhatsApp Business is aimed at self-employed people or very small businesses with up to a maximum of five employees:inside. In fact, it was developed less for teams, but for individual conversations. The business app is free for customers and companies and offers:
- a company profile
- posting of company information like opening hours, product catalog or contact data
- some (limited) automated templates
It is important to understand that in this case you can only use WhatsApp on the smartphone (difficult with regard to the DSGVO!) and a maximum of four devices can be connected. In other words, if more people in your company want to communicate with customers via WhatsApp, the smartphone must be passed on from employee to employee.
In addition, most companies that start with WhatsApp Business find that their customers love this form of communication. However, this quickly leads to an increased volume of inquiries, which can no longer be managed with the business app.
WhatsApp has announced that it will expand these options with a WhatsApp Business subscription. However, this will incur costs and: Just like with the free version, data protection is not guaranteed.
For most companies, the WhatsApp Business app therefore quickly reaches its limits and they switch to the WhatsApp Business API.
During the test, the WhatsApp Business app neither withstood our demand for DSGVO compliance, nor did the app represent a viable solution in day-to-day business, as it cannot be used by several employees at the same time.
Dr. Michael Schreier, Managing Director of Wehlage & Kollegen Insolvenzverwalter GmbH
WhatsApp Business API (WhatsApp Business Platform)
API stands for Application Programming Interface and provides businesses with an interface to the WhatsApp platform. In 2022, Meta renamed the WhatsApp Business API to WhatsApp Business Platform, but the functions remained the same.
The connection to the interface must be paid for (for companies, not for customers!), but offers your company the following features that the business app does not have:
- Data protection is guaranteed
- You can get the green tick
- You can connect chatbots
- It is possible to send newsletters
- You can connect CRM systems
- It is possible to create and reach target groups specifically via targeting
Compared to WhatsApp Business, the WhatsApp Business API offers some special features in terms of profile or communication options.
A company profile immediately shows your customers that they are communicating with a company. It creates trust and also gives your company better visibility.
All companies that use WhatsApp Business or the API can create a company profile. With the green tick, however, it looks different.
The green tick is WhatsApp’s symbol for an officially verified business account and the non plus ultra in terms of customer trust on WhatsApp.
But: only companies that use the WhatsApp Business API can get the green tick. There are also certain criteria and requirements that you as a company have to fulfill for the green tick and the final decision lies with WhatsApp.
However, if you use the WhatsApp Business Platform through an official meta-partner (Business Solution Provider), they can help you apply for the green tick.
The WhatsApp Business API opens up broader possibilities for you as a company to send promotional messages, special offers or newsletters to your target group and customers.
Basically, WhatsApp distinguishes between a message that
- goes from the customer to the company (user-initiated message) and
- a message that goes from the company to the customers (business-initiated message).
While customers are of course allowed to contact a company at any time, the communication of companies is restricted in order to avoid spam. Accordingly, as a business, you may only send messages if the person either sent you a message first or actively agreed to receive messages from you via opt-in.
WhatsApp has also set a 24-hour window in which companies should reply to customers. Within this window, all chats are billed as a message. If the 24 hours are exceeded, costs are incurred for a new conversation. This is to ensure that inquiries are answered more quickly.
Sometimes, of course, you simply can’t respond within this time window because, for example, you don’t get the answer until a few days later (“The spare part is now here.”). Or you didn’t have time to answer on the weekend.
Then you can use a WhatsApp notification. With the template “Ticket_responde_after_24h” you can send a notification to customers for a fee. If they respond, the 24 hour window for the free conversation is open again!
The prices for a WhatsApp Business conversation / session are different, depending on the country. The costs are based on the country code of the end user’s phone number.
But: The first 1,000 conversations per month and for each WhatsApp Business account are free of charge. For the thousand conversations, however, it does not matter whether they are initiated by customers or by companies. The free limit refers to per WhatsApp business profile and not on the basis of the WhatsApp number.
In addition, no costs are incurred if user starts the conversation via Facebook or Instagram advertising via click-to-WhatsApp ad or click-to-chat ad. Even if the WhatsApp conversation comes via the WhatsApp button on the Facebook page, the conversation is free.
We have compiled various sample calculations for you to see how this looks in concrete terms.
After WhatsApp had not allowed newsletters for a few years, they are now possible again
–albeit under slightly different conditions, as business-initiated messages. The new edition of the WhatsApp newsletter still has many features from its predecessor, of course. These are, for example, the opt-in, which still has to be obtained, no underlying algorithm, and the continuing high click and open rates.
Unlike the old WhatsApp newsletter, however, this version is officially supported by WhatsApp. And even though there are costs involved, you can use the tool to reach your customers directly, from updates to special promo deals to re-engagement campaigns.
💡 Get inspired by other companies: You should know these WhatsApp newsletter examples!
Since WhatsApp Business runs on smartphones, you always risk WhatsApp’s access to user and metadata, which users must always explicitly agree to in advance according to the GDPR. In addition, Meta’s servers are located in the USA, which means that data processing does not comply with European standards.
If you use the free version of WhatsApp Business, you risk violating the General Data Protection Regulation. This is exactly the problem you solve when you use a professional provider like MessengerPeople for your access to the WhatsApp Business API.
Firstly, customer contact can be carried out on the desktop, and secondly, data processing takes place on EU servers. Data protection is therefore guaranteed, says data protection expert and lawyer Dr. Carsten Ulbricht.
In general, there are no restrictions on what data companies and customers exchange via messengers such as Whatsapp.
It is important that the company provides comprehensive information beforehand about what happens with the data and that the customer’s legitimation is available.
Dr.Cartsen Ulbricht M.C.L
The API offers you technological access to the WhatsApp platform as an interface. The possibilities that arise from this are extremely diverse and range from customer support to automation options via chatbot to sales.
Traditional customer service by phone, email or live chat still has its place. But more and more customers want help via WhatsApp and the other channels. Why? The conversation is personal, customers can send files such as photos or voice messages and information more easily, and they can also “take” the conversation with them. This makes messengers like WhatsApp much more flexible and convenient for customers in customer service.
Whatsapp has the best NPS, CSAT and a very good resolution rate of all channels in customer service
Thomas Koch E WIE EINFACH
As a company, on the other hand, you use an app that 90 percent of all Germans have already installed. You’re also faster than by phone or email, and you save money (it’s not for nothing that call centers are known as cost centers!). You can also automate many processes via simple chatbots and thus be even more efficient.
For example, hessnatur, the German market leader for natural textiles, uses WhatsApp in customer service to be even closer to its customers. A particularly practical feature is that instead of sending goods back to hessnatur for inspection, customers can now simply send photos or videos via the app.
This saves customers the effort of returning the goods, and hessnatur can reduce its costs – and also impress its customers with the uncomplicated process.
WhatsApp as a sales channel? It works! It depends on how exactly you use WhatsApp in your company. But if you use WhatsApp for consulting, for example, this will naturally result in sales conversations.
The same applies to WhatsApp in customer service. A person has a question about a product? Then it’s not only possible to answer it, but also to sell the product quite easily. The premium pet food manufacturer AlphaPet, for example, actually uses WhatsApp in customer service, but can also use it to stimulate sales.
And: if the same person needs a new package, they can order it again directly in the same chat. That makes customer retention so much easier!
How do you as a company manage to send your customers the offers that really excite them and that don’t get lost in the masses? Via WhatsApp! Because here you land directly on the lock screen and don’t have to bypass any algorithms. That’s why 90 percent of the messages that arrive via WhatsApp are opened. This makes the messenger the ideal marketing channel.
The WhatsApp Business API provides you with many options for this with the business-initiated messages. The company SportSpar, for example, specializes in low-priced sportswear and regularly sends its newsletter subscribers special offers. In addition to a daily changing daily deal and weekly deals, there are also many other special offers.
What’s particularly exciting for SportSpar is that they can also connect to their CRM system via the WhatsApp API, allowing them to create targeted campaigns for specific audiences, ultimately making their marketing much more effective.
In fact, you can use WhatsApp very effectively throughout the entire customer journey.
Only the WhatsApp Business API offers you the possibility to integrate automation solutions. Here, simple FAQ bots that answer the most important customer questions are often enough to massively relieve your team. In fact, chatbots can answer around 90 percent of all recurring questions.
of 12,400 customer messages, over 11,100 could be answered automatically
Albert Rösch BMW
Using the WhatsApp Business Platform, you can easily integrate chatbots with the help of professional software solutions and thus answer customer inquiries faster and relieve your team even more.
The WhatsApp Business API offers countless ways to engage with customers via Messenger and can be used successfully in just about any industry, from HR to car dealerships to small stores.
Aurubis AG operates in the metal industry and, like many other companies, is always desperately looking for new talent. In order to be closer to its target group, Aurubis AG therefore relies on WhatsApp when searching for trainees.
The biggest challenge for Aurubis is to find apprentices first and then be able to address them. In the first place, Aurubis AG therefore wanted to find a way to overcome the communication barrier between the company and apprentices and be able to chat with them directly.
As Germany’s most popular messenger, WhatsApp is perfect for this. Interested parties react positively to the relaxed conversation via chat, questions can be clarified much faster and Aurubis ultimately receives applications directly via WhatsApp.
With Whatsapp we work very specifically towards the final application
Nils Gerstenkorn Aurubis AG
The company has already received 30 applications through this channel, three of which will be hired by the end of the year. 💡Download the whole Aurubis success story here!
The online color retailer MissPompadour shows that advice via WhatsApp is not only worthwhile, but can also boost sales.
In practice, customers can send photos and videos, for example, and thus receive quick and easy advice on suitable color designs. And it is precisely this personal advice via WhatsApp that ultimately leads to sales!
Consulting via WhatsApp is not without effort, but it’s worth it. Nine out of ten inquiries lead to a sale at MissPompadour!
💡Download the whole MissPompadour success story here!
When will the repair be finished? Can I pick up my car this week? Repair shops have to manage a very high number of such requests every day, an extremely high effort for customer service.
In the case of BMW Munich, for example, an average of 200 customers drop off their BMW for maintenance every day – and then naturally want to know what the repair status is. For a long time, this was done via call centers, but this was very time-consuming per request. Until the company decided to answer these inquiries via WhatsApp chatbot.
The chatbot was able to answer a large part of the inquiries, which not only gave the business more satisfied customers, but also significantly reduced the calls to the call center.
We receive about 3,800 inquiries from customers, of which we answer about 3,000 automatically. Callback requests have dropped by 60 percent and the recommendation rate has risen to 90 percent!
Albert Rösch, Head of Service Consulting BMW Branch Office Munich
In fact, the WhatsApp Business API is not only interesting for SMEs and larger corporations with large teams, but also for small businesses. There are special solutions for SMEs that also offer small businesses a professional and data protection-compliant solution.
For example, the family business from Baden-Württemberg, TRACTA Mode Outlet, also uses the WhatsApp Business API. On the one hand, the business can thus continue to guarantee the very personal consultation, but on the other hand, it can also answer customer inquiries much faster. A win-win situation for the company.
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There are three ways for businesses to access the WhatsApp Business Platform:
1. Direct access
Here you need a good connection directly to Meta (good luck!). Next, you then need your own IT infrastructure, your own servers and then build all the software or CRM integration yourself. This option is suitable for companies that have a lot of developer resources and very individual requirements!
Meta did open up access to its WhatsApp API via cloud this year. However, this again requires developer skills and data protection is also not guaranteed with this option.
2. API provider interface
Here, the interface is provided by a WhatsApp business solution provider. Companies still need their own development team and IT resources. The cost-effective Unified Messaging API from MessengerPeople, for example, is an interface, but you can use it not only for WhatsApp, but also for several messengers such as Telegram and Facebook Messenger. Of course, this variant is also DSGVO-compliant.
3. Use professional software-as-a-service
If you want to use WhatsApp for your company quickly, directly, without IT resources but 100 percent data protection compliant, MessengerPeople offers a ready-to-use software solution! With the Messenger Communication Platform, companies receive a software solution that, with its intuitive interface, is immediately ready for use for customer communication. This is worthwhile for all companies with about ten employees or more.
You have more questions about the WhatsApp Business API? Bring it on!