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An Introductory Guide to WhatsApp Business Platform/API

Niloofar Kavousi
November 3, 2022

In 2009, the WhatsApp Messenger app, which we use for our personal and daily communications with friends and family, was launched. Today, more than 2 billion people use WhatsApp. With the world having gone more mobile and digital, people’s buying behavior has changed too. Many people want to contact businesses the same way they reach family and friends.

In 2018, WhatsApp launched its WhatsApp Business app to help micro-businesses connect with their customers. In the same year, WhatsApp Business Platform/API came out to cater to the needs of other businesses; small, medium, and enterprise. 

But what is WhatsApp Business Platform/API? How does it help businesses? How is it better than the WhatsApp Business app, and how can you access it? This article will guide you in navigating these questions.

First, let’s get a few terminologies understood. WhatsApp has three major products:

  • WhatsApp Messenger app, 
  • WhatsApp Business app
  • WhatsApp Business Platform. 

WhatsApp Business Platform consists of 3 sub-products:

  • On-premises API
  • Cloud API
  • Business Management API. 

This article is all about on-premises API. In fact, most online references to WhatsApp Business Platform/API are about WhatsApp’s on-premises API unless otherwise specified. For simplicity, in this article, we also refer to it as WhatsApp Business Platform/API.

What’s WhatsApp Business Platform/API?

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a software interface that lets two software interact, communicate and exchange data.

WhatsApp Business Platform/API is an interface that lets you connect your WhatsApp Business account to almost any other software that your business uses, such as your CRM. As a result, you’ll be able to take advantage of the features of your other software in your WhatsApp communications.

How cool is that? Let’s say that you’re using a CRM that allows bulk messaging. You can use WhatsApp Business Platform/API to connect your CRM with your WhatsApp Business account, send bulk messages to your customers and tell them about your new product launch, or run marketing campaigns. You can connect it to a team inbox like Rasayel and talk to customers as a team, assign each other to different conversations, run campaigns, and do much more.

In short, with the WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you can do almost everything your other tools do in your WhatsApp communications. At the heart of it, it’s a tool to help businesses scale engagement of audiences, accelerate sales and drive better customer support outcomes.

Differences Between WhatsApp Messenger, WhatsApp Business app, WhatsApp Web, WhatsApp Business API and WhatsApp Cloud API

WhatsApp Messenger app

WhatsApp Messenger, previously known as just WhatsApp, is a messaging app for personal communications with friends and family. 

It can be downloaded for free from the Play Store for Android and App Store for iOS devices. You can send and receive text messages, photos, videos, locations, and documents on the WhatsApp Messenger app. 

If you want to broadcast a message, you can do so for up to 256 contacts, and they will receive your message as long as they have your number saved on their phones. While you can have the app on your phone, you can also install it on your PC or use it in your browser (WhatsApp Web).

WhatsApp Business app

Similar to the WhatsApp Messenger app, it is a free app that you can download on your phone from Play Store or App Store, and you can have it installed on your PC or use it in your browser (WhatsApp Web).

WhatsApp Business app has a few extra features compared to the WhatsApp Messenger app. With WhatsApp Business app you can create a business profile, include your business description, website, and add a product catalog for customers to browse through. 

If there are any messages that you commonly use, you can save them for quick use later. You can automate welcome messages and away messages for when customers message you, and you can label your messages to keep your inbox organized. 

If you want to broadcast messages to customers, you are allowed to do so for up to 256 customers; however, marketing messages are not encouraged. For more information on WhatsApp Business app’s broadcasting, please read our blog, WhatsApp Broadcast Message for Business.

If your business is growing and you have a medium to a high volume of messages, WhatsApp Business Platform/API is a much better option. 

WhatsApp Business API

WhatsApp Business API is not an app you can download on your phone. It runs entirely in the cloud. Meta’s partners, known as Business Solution Providers (BSPs), get access to it from Meta and host it on their servers. That is why WhatsApp Business API is known as WhatsApp on-premises API. Businesses can access it only via BSPs, not through WhatsApp directly. Therefore, you must pay Meta (the parent company of WhatsApp) and BSPs to use WhatsApp Business API. We will talk about Business Solution Providers in a bit. 

WhatsApp Business API does not provide an inbox in which you can send and receive messages, so you must integrate it with a CRM or a team inbox like Rasayel to be able to communicate with your customers.

Yes, making use of WhatsApp Business API is not as straightforward as downloading a mobile app, but the vast possibilities it offers you are worth the extra effort.

WhatsApp Cloud API

In 2022, Meta released WhatsApp Cloud API. Meta hosts WhatsApp Cloud API itself, so businesses can access it directly from Meta. This means that you cut down on your costs by only paying Meta, and not a Business Solution Provider (BSP). 

You can also send a higher number of messages with WhatsApp Cloud API per second compared to WhatsApp Business API.

Benefits of WhatsApp Business Platform/API

WhatsApp Business Platform/API offers the same benefits of the WhatsApp Business app while bypassing its limitations:

Business Profile — You must set up a business profile with your business name, business description, website, and profile picture. Customers can see this information and know that they are talking to a business.

Advanced Messaging Features — Since the API itself does not come with an inbox, you must connect it to an inbox that lets you send and receive messages. Different inboxes have different features. For example, you can save common messages for quick retrieval later(quick replies). When customers message you, you can send automated welcome messages or away messages for when they message you out of your working hours.

With the WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you can send interactive messages that let your customers view your products and add them to a shopping cart within the chat. This is especially useful for eCommerce businesses that want to simplify shopping for their customers. To learn more about interactive messages, read our blog One-Stop Guide for Interactive Messages.

Interactive message templates With interactive message templates, your customers can take certain actions like claiming a discount you are offering as part of your marketing campaign, viewing your new products on your website, or answering a question. More about this can be found in our article All About Interactive WhatsApp Message Templates.

Team Collaboration If you use the WhatsApp Business Platform/API with a collaborative team inbox like Rasayel, you are no longer limited to one user at a time, or a limited number of devices connected to your account. You can talk to customers as a team, assign each other to different customers, leave notes, and tag conversations based on the criteria you define. For example, “awesome customer”, “difficult customer”, “partner”, etc.

Bulk Messaging — WhatsApp Business app limits you to 256 contacts if you want to broadcast a message, and marketing messages aren’t allowed. Only those who have your number saved will receive your message. 

On the other hand, with WhatsApp Business Platform/API you can send messages to an unlimited number of contacts. They will receive your message regardless of whether they have your number saved or not. With this feature, you can run marketing campaigns on WhatsApp, announce new product launches, send “Happy new year” messages, system downtime alerts, and more.

It is important to note that if you want to start a conversation with your customers, including with bulk messages, you must submit your message to WhatsApp for approval. Customers must have given you consent to receiving messages from you over WhatsApp. There is more information on these in our articles How to Make Sure WhatsApp Approves your Message Templates and The Complete Guide to WhatsApp Message Templates for Your Business

Advanced Integrations A unique feature of WhatsApp Business Platform/API is that it lets you integrate your WhatsApp account to any other tool, like your eCommerce store or CRM. With these integrations, you can take advantage of your other tools’ features in your WhatsApp communications.
For example, if you are using a CRM like HubSpot and integrate it with WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you can create a workflow of payment reminder messages on WhatsApp.

If you’re using Rasayel as your inbox and integrate it with your Shopify store, you can see the full context of your customers’ shopping history while talking to them on WhatsApp. You can view their past orders, how much they’ve spent, refund and cancel their orders from Rasayel itself. For more information, visit our article The Importance of WhatsApp for Your Shopify Store

Automation Your automation can be as simple as sending an auto-responder to new customer inquiries or as complex as a chatbot that helps customers find what they are looking for. 

If you choose to use Rasayel as your WhatsApp Business Platform/API inbox, you can use Zapier to create all kinds of automation. Zapier connects Rasayel to more than 5000 other apps and platforms. For example, if Slack is the app for your internal communications, you can create an automation to receive a Slack notification every time a teammate mentions you in a WhatsApp chat.

How to Get Access to WhatsApp Business Platform/API for Your Business

WhatsApp does not give businesses direct access to WhatsApp Business Platform/API. Instead, businesses must contact official Business Solution Providers (BPSs) that are partners of WhatsApp to create a WhatsApp Business account. After that, they can gain access to the API. To see the full list of all Business Solution Providers, please visit WhatsApp’s partner directory

These solution providers differ in many ways, including their pricing packages and the features they provide. Some providers make the API user-friendly so end-user companies could benefit from it. Others sell packages that give access to the API with an omnichannel inbox, making it readily usable for businesses to start communicating with their customers. The rest of the providers give access to the API as a developer-friendly interface, allowing businesses (third-party partners) to build on it. 

If you are an end-user that wants to use the API to communicate with your customers, you need to pay a fee to WhatsApp as well as your provider (BSP). The WhatsApp fee is calculated per conversation. A conversation is a 24-hour period from when your first message is delivered to a customer. The fees for conversations differ depending on whether you or the customer start the conversation. Different countries have different fees. To learn more about how WhatsApp charges businesses, please visit WhatsApp’s Conversation-Based Pricing page

While getting access to the WhatsApp Business Platform/API differs among Business Solution Providers, certain requirements and prerequisites remain the same:

  • You must have a Facebook (Meta) Business account. In most cases, it must be verified.
  • You must have a phone number that meets certain criteria defined by Meta

After that, you can follow each Business Solution Provider’s steps to create a WhatsApp Business account with them.

Here we talk briefly about three solution providers that are partners of Rasayel, how much they charge, whether you must bring your own phone number or buy one from them, and how long it takes to sign up for a WhatsApp Business account.

The costs listed below cover only the fee for the BSP and does not include WhatsApp’s per-conversation fee.

In our blog Comparison of WhatsApp Business Platform/API Solution Providers, we provide more details about each solution provider.

360dialog

Who is it suitable for?

360dialog serves businesses of all sizes. Their API is end-user-friendly and developer-friendly. If you want to use their API to communicate with your customers or if you are a company that wants to build on an existing API, 360dialog is a suitable option.

Cost 

Their pricing plans depend on whether you are an end user of the API or a partner looking to provide the API for end users. They have three pricing plans that are available publicly. For more information, please get in touch with them.

API only (starting €49)

A suitable starting point for most businesses.

Professional €99

Same as the API only package, with premium customer support.

Enterprise (starting €200)

Best for large companies with ultra-high bandwidth.

Rasayel partner price (US$15)

If you choose Rasayel as your WhatsApp inbox and 360dialog as your BSP, the cost of 360dialog is reduced to $15 per month. This is regardless of the number of messages you send and receive, or the number of team members you have.

Phone number

You must buy your own number (SIM or virtual) that meets the criteria defined by Meta.

How long does it take to create a WhatsApp Business account?

It takes 5 to 15 minutes for businesses to create an account.

Twilio

Who is it suitable for?

Twilio does not just focus on WhatsApp Business Platform/API. It also provides APIs for SMS, emails, voice, video, IoT, and integration solutions. They could be your right partner if you also use those other channels to talk to your customers.

Cost

Twilio charges a flat-rate per message platform fee for all countries, which is $0.005 per message.

You can estimate the cost for your business on Twillio’s pricing page.

Phone Number

You must purchase and use a Twilio number. You may be able to port your own number to Twilio, but that process alone may take a few weeks.

How long does it take to create a WhatsApp Business account?

Anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks.

MessageBird

Who is it suitable for?

Medium and large businesses.

Cost

MessageBird charges a flat-rate per message platform fee for all countries, which is $0.005 per message.

Phone Number

You can bring your own number (SIM or virtual) or buy a number from MessageBIrd.

How long does it take to get a WhatsApp Business account?

Anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks.

Use Cases of WhatsApp Business Platform/API

1. Reduce abandoned cart numbers in your eCommerce store.

According to Baymard Institute, 69.99% of online shopping carts are abandoned, and the leading reasons for this are high shipping costs, taxes, and other extra fees. By using WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you can automate sending notifications to the customers who have left their cart in your store. 

You could offer discounts on delivery fee or the products themselves to encourage the customers to complete their shopping. Most importantly, you can make these actions easy for customers by providing buttons in your message that take them to the shopping cart page.

2. Increase your sales with WhatsApp’s interactive messages.

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app, with over 2 billion users. Imagine if you could display your products to the customers on such a high-reaching app! This is possible with WhatsApp Business Platform/API. You can set up single-product or multi-product messages to send and show your products to your customers in the chat. They can then view the products, select the items they want, and put them in a shopping cart from WhatsApp. After that, they need to send their cart to you so that you can guide them on the next steps to take to finish their purchase. The ease of shopping with interactive messages gives customers more incentive to make a purchase and increase your sales.

You can read more about interactive messages in our blog, One-Stop Guide for Interactive Messages.

3. Improve customer reply rate and obtain feedback.

Ever been frustrated by a low customer reply rate when you asked them a question? 

With interactive message templates, you provide your customers with up to three options of answers to choose from. Customers can simply click on their desired response rather than typing out a reply. 

Let’s say after customers buy products from you, you’d like to learn about what they think of their purchase. You can send a message asking them about their opinion and offer them various options like “I loved it.”, “It’s ok.” and “I didn’t like it.”. You can define further steps to take depending on what each customer replies. For example, you can guide happy customers to leave a review for you or ask unhappy customers further questions to learn about why they didn’t like your product.

4. Run promotional marketing campaigns that get noticed.

These days everyone’s email inbox is full of promotional emails that go unread. Your promotional campaign messages don’t have to be ignored if you use the right channel of communication like WhatsApp. WhatsApp has strict guidelines compared to email and SMS for sending marketing messages. Therefore, people’s WhatsApp inboxes aren’t filled with promotional messages, so the few they receive will get noticed. If you’ve launched a new product or are offering promotions, you can run marketing campaigns and include buttons in your message to let your customers claim a discount with ease, or view a new product.

5. Create chatbots for customer self-service.

With the WhatsApp Business Platform/API, it is possible to create simple or sophisticated chatbots to help customers self-serve before a human agent attends to them. 

For example, you can automate a chatbot that asks the customers a series of questions to narrow down what they need. From there, the chatbot can either offer the customers blogs from your help center or notify one of your customer support agents specializing in that problem.

Final Thoughts

If you use WhatsApp for your customer communications often and your business is growing, there is a high chance that you need WhatsApp Business Platform/API. It lets you connect your WhatsApp Business account to almost any other tool and software you use in your business, helps you scale your customer engagement, and increase your sales. To get access to the WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you need to contact WhatsApp’s official Business Solution Providers. 

Further Readings

Comparison of WhatsApp Business Solution Providers

One-Stop Guide for Interactive Messages

All About Interactive WhatsApp Message Templates

How to make sure WhatsApp approves your message template

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