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Opt-ins, consent, and WhatsApp best practices & policies

Miodrag Magyar
November 4, 2022

Today, there are more than two billion people who use WhatsApp, and over 50 million brands interact with their customers over WhatsApp Business. It started as a status update app, then grew into a messaging app, and finally, in 2018, WhatsApp opened its door to businesses, evolving into a deal-closing medium, a customer support channel, and a platform to grow your business. 

Since its conception, WhatsApp has rejected ads and protected its users against bad experiences and spam, promoting safety, security, and integrity on and off its services. That doesn’t mean you can’t run a marketing campaign over WhatsApp. You can, by leveraging the Broadcast feature and convey your message to a large audience. The difference is that WhatsApp requires businesses to obtain opt-in before initiating any conversation with their customers, including sending promotional messages.

What is an Opt-in?

Let’s face it, no one is eager to be bombarded with messages from an unknown number, whether it belongs to a stranger or a business. Both email and messaging providers try to eradicate spam messaging and ensure a high-quality user experience. One of the most effective ways to avoid unwanted communication on WhatsApp is by requiring businesses to obtain opt-ins before starting a conversation with their customers.

An opt-in is consent or permission that customers give to receive messages from a business. If you send messages to customers who haven’t given you their permission to do this, you are in direct violation of WhatsApp's Business policy and risk being reported. If your business gets reported by multiple customers for unwanted messaging, WhatsApp may restrict you from using its services or completely ban your account.

WhatsApp Business Platform-specific terms

In 2018, Facebook released the WhatsApp Business Platform/API, to allow businesses to communicate with their customers at scale. The API enables you to connect thousands of agents and bots to interact with your customers. The platform can be connected with customer communication tools, such as Rasayel, to help you manage your WhatsApp conversations as a team, and grow your business.

What types of messages can customers opt-in to receive? 

With WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you can only initiate conversations with customers using pre-approved Message Templates. WhatsApp only approves templates that comply with its terms and policies. If you want to ensure WhatsApp approves your Message Templates, read How to Make Sure WhatsApp Approves Your Message Templates.

Businesses using WhatsApp Business API are charged per conversation, which includes all messages delivered in a 24-hour session. You can reply to your customers with a regular message, as long as it's within 24 hours of the last user message. After that window has passed, you have to use an approved message template. Conversations initiated by users open once the first business reply message is delivered.

You may use automation when responding during the 24-hour window but must also have available prompt, clear, and direct escalation paths.

These escalation paths include:

  • In-Chat Human Agent transfer
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Web support (on the business website)
  • In-store visits 
  • Support form

Your customers can opt-in to receive:

Transactional notifications 

  • Delivery alerts
  • Appointment reminders
  • Purchase confirmations
  • Account balances

Non-transactional notifications

  • Product recommendations related to a customer’s previous purchases
  • Helpful informational alerts
  • Relevant offers
  • Reminders to book an appointment

Requirements for obtaining opt-ins

You must follow these requirements when obtaining opt-in:

  • Clearly state your customer is opting in to receive messages from your business over WhatsApp.
  • Clearly state the business name that your customer is opting in to receive messages from.
  • Comply with laws that apply to your business.

How to collect WhatsApp opt-ins?

You can collect opt-ins both on and off WhatsApp, including via your website, interactive voice response (IVR) flows, or in person with customers signing a physical document to opt-in. Make sure to store a record of all customer opt-ins, and to check that record before sending a message to anyone on WhatsApp.

Best practices

Website - Your website is often the main channel for collecting customer opt-ins. Anyone visiting your website is likely to have an interest in your brand and products. You can use your home page or display banners that will take visitors to a landing page offering more information on the value of receiving messages over WhatsApp, and allowing visitors to leave their WhatsApp phone numbers if they wish. 

Including an opt-in option in the Contact page of your website is a great way to make things easier for your customers.

Existing communication channels - You can collect opt-ins in a WhatsApp thread. If a user starts a conversation with your business, you can ask for consent right then and there. Besides this channel, you can use all existing channels of communication that you use, including social media, SMS, email, phone calls, and more.

Point of Sale - Your brick-and-mortar store has tremendous potential to turn store visitors into a WhatsApp audience. You can offer your customers to opt-in by signing a document so that you can inform them about their reward points, collect customer satisfaction scores, file for refunds, and more.

Sign-up forms - If you offer products or services that require signing up, you can use a checkbox so that customers can opt-in as they’re entering their sign-up information.

Obtain specific opt-ins - You can offer your customers specific opt-ins for different messaging categories. These categories can be anything from reservation updates to policy updates, appointment reminders, order updates, relevant offers, or product recommendations..

How to increase your opt-in rate and minimize the bounce rate?

If you want to increase your opt-in rate, make sure your customers understand that they’ll receive high-quality and relevant information from your business on WhatsApp. Here’re some great ways to set this expectation:

  • Clearly communicate the value of receiving important updates on WhatsApp.
  • Be explicit about what types of messages a customer is opting-in to.

The user experience you provide on WhatsApp has a strong impact on the way you build and maintain relationships with your customers. Here are a few helpful tips to retain your audience:

  • Avoid messaging customers too frequently to mitigate the perception of spam.
  • Provide instructions for how people can opt-out of receiving messages from your business.
  • Honor customer requests to mitigate the risk of customers blocking or reporting your business.
  • Monitor your quality rating to evaluate new opt-in processes.

WhatsApp Business Messaging Policy

To enjoy the benefits of using the WhatsApp Business app and WhatsApp Business Platform/API, you must comply with WhatsApp’s Business and Commerce policies. They ensure safe, high-quality conversations between brands and their customers.

If you want to contact a customer on WhatsApp, you can only do it if that person provides you with their number, and has agreed to receive your messages. The WhatsApp Business policy controls how businesses use WhatsApp Business products and sets expectations for the customer experience. The policy also details which business models are allowed to use the platform.

If you offer products or services that are prohibited by the WhatsApp Commerce Policy, you can still use WhatsApp Business to interact with your customers. However, you are not allowed to send messages to promote prohibited products or services, create and send message templates or engage in a WhatsApp thread to sell any prohibited products or services.

These restrictions apply only to businesses that fall under the prohibited categories, defined in the WhatsApp Commerce Policy. You can read the detailed WhatsApp Business policy here.

Closing thoughts

Opt-ins are mandatory if you want to grow your business with WhatsApp. It may sound like a drawback, but in reality, by collecting opt-ins you are building a target audience of customers that are genuinely interested in your business and products. Businesses invest fortunes in determining their target audience, while with WhatsApp, you can do it for free.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about how WhatsApp can help you grow your business, please reach out to us on WhatsApp at: +13024070488

We also offer a free consultation session where we go through your use case, answer any questions you have about WhatsApp, and help you build a strategy to make the best out of the platform. Book a call with us here. We’d love to speak you:

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