WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp API: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Over the years, WhatsApp has become one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, with over 2 billion monthly active users. It’s not just individuals who are using WhatsApp - businesses are increasingly turning to the app as a way to communicate with their customers. Given its wide reach and accessibility, it’s no wonder that WhatsApp has become such an essential tool for businesses.

Whether you’re looking to provide customer support or promote your products, WhatsApp is a must-have for any business that wants to stay connected with its customers.

WhatsApp offers two different options for businesses to communicate with their customers: WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business Platform (API).

WhatsApp Business App is a free mobile app that is designed for very small businesses. It runs on your phone and gives you basic features, such as the ability to create a business profile and send quick replies to customers.

WhatsApp Business Platform (API) is a paid service for medium and large businesses that need to efficiently manage their WhatsApp conversations at scale. It gives you access to much more functionality than WhatsApp Business App, including the ability to send automated messages and create customer chatbots. However, you need to use a third-party partner service in order to access WhatsApp Business Platform (API).

Let’s delve into the details to understand the difference between WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp API.

WhatsApp Business App

WhatsApp Business App is a mobile app that WhatsApp introduced to give businesses a way to build a presence on the platform. Just like the regular WhatsApp Messenger, WhatsApp Business App lets you send and receive messages to your customers. It also has some extra features that are designed to help businesses better interact with their customers. For example, you can:

  • Create a profile for your business with your business name, logo, business hours and contact information
  • Set up away messages or quick replies

Let’s look at an example of how a business would use WhatsApp Business App.

Consider Nancy. She runs a cupcake shop in her neighbourhood, and she decided to download the WhatsApp Business App to help her with her business.

With the app, she’s able to:

  • Create a business profile with information that helps her customers like address, business hours, email address, phone number and a link to her website.
  • Create a greeting message so her customers get a warm welcome when they communicate with her
  • Set an away message for when she’s unable to answer
  • Apply labels to chats to stay organized

… and she can do all of this from the comfort of her phone!

For small businesses like Nancy, WhatsApp Business App is a great free tool that she can leverage to stay connected with her customers.

WhatsApp Business Platform (API)

WhatsApp offers WhatsApp Business Platform (API) for all businesses. It comes with no interface or mobile app. Instead, it allows a partner service (like ValueFirst) to connect your WhatsApp account to their platform, which will generally come with both web interfaces and mobile apps.

When using a partner service with WhatsApp Business Platform (API), your team logs in to the partner service to manage WhatsApp conversations. This approach unlocks a number of added benefits:

  • You can get your WhatsApp account verified, so you have a green tick by your business name which increase customer trust for your business
  • There are no limits to the size of your team or the number of devices you can connect
  • Organize conversations into smart folders
  • Powerful CRM system to track customers, their contact details and conversations across all channels (WhatsApp, SMS, Email, etc).
  • Integrates with your other business tools
  • Ability to send bulk messages to customer lists of any size
  • Send automated targeted notifications to customers (order confirmations, shipping updates, appointment updates, etc)
  • Create chatbots to further automate routing of conversations
  • Create product catalogs to easily show case your products and provide in chat payment integration to provide an end to end buying experience
  • Create surveys to gather more data about customer preferences  
  • Automatically generated reporting to assess response times and track your team’s performance
Comparing WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business Platform (API)

We’re going to compare WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business Platform (API) based on a number of factors:

Broadcast Limitations

  • WhatsApp Business App can only send broadcast messages to lists of up to 256 people.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) can send broadcasts to lists of any size.

Broadcast Reach

  • WhatsApp Business App broadcasts are only received by people who have your number saved in their address book.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) has no such restrictions.

Team Inbox

  • WhatsApp Business App does not provide any easy way to share your WhatsApp inbox with other team members. You could technically use WhatsApp Web, but when it gets logged out, you have to help log the person back in. Even if you do make it work with WhatsApp Web, there are still a number of limitations - for example, you won’t know who actually wrote the response and you won’t know which conversations have been taken care of.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) gets around these limitations by allowing connections to a partner service that provides shared inbox software (like ValueFirst). With shared inbox software, there are no limits on team size, you’re able to assign conversations and you know exactly which conversations still need to be taken care of.

Multiuser Access

WhatsApp Business App can only be installed on one phone. It can be accessed from up to 4 devices using WhatsApp Web. However, WhatsApp Web was not designed for multiple users, so there are a number of limitations:

  • You won’t know who wrote a response to a customer
  • When looking at a list of conversations, you won’t know if somebody else is typing up a response or if you need to take it

Since WhatsApp Business Platform (API) works through a partner service (like ValueFirst), you’ll have a much richer interface designed for team collaboration. For example, with ValueFirst, you can:

  • see in real time if somebody else on your team is looking at or typing in a conversation
  • assign conversations to specific members/ agents on your team
  • collaborate with each with in-conversation private notes that are not visible to the customer
  • WhatsApp Businss Platform (API) can also be used from an unlimited number of devices.

Chatbots

  • WhatsApp Business App has no concept of chat bots or any way to connect chat bots to a conversation.
  • With WhatsApp Business Platform (API), chatbots can be used to gather additional information or to triage customer conversations while you’re asleep.

Automated Messaging

  • WhatsApp Business App message automation is limited to greeting messages to engage new customers and away messages that can be sent when you’re not able to answer.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) is designed to enable all sorts of automated messaging: order notifications, shipping updates, drip campaigns, lead nurturing and so on. Automated messages are especially useful when you have a lot of contacts and you want to stay in touch with all of them without spending all your time manually messaging each one.

Customization Options

  • WhatsApp Business App provides limited customization options and provides no API access.
  • On the other hand WhatsApp Business Platform (API) is an API that a partner service (like ValueFirst) uses to build a powerful customizable interface. Most partner services integrate with other business apps and offer their own APIs for further customization to fit your business.

Verified Green Tick

A green tick on your WhatsApp business profile is a signal to potential customers that you’re a verified business and that they can trust you.

WhatsApp Business App does provide any way to enable a green verification tick on your profile.

Whereas WhatsApp Business Platform (API) provides the option to go through a business verification process to display a green tick by your profile.

Clickable Messages / Button Messages

Button messages allow you to send a message with a few one-click-buttons that the customer can click to respond. This feature is only available on WhatsApp Business Platform (API).

Contact Management

  • WhatsApp Business App manages contacts using your phone’s address book. This means your phone becomes the single source of truth of contact information.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) manages customer contacts using your company’s CRM platform. For bigger businesses, having contact information in their CRM makes a lot more sense than in the phones of their staff.

Meta Business Manager Verification

  • WhatsApp Business App does not require business verification in Meta Business Manager.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API), on the other hand, requires full business verification before you’re able to start communicating with WhatsApp users.

Convert WhatsApp Business App number to WhatsApp Business Platform (API) number

It’s possible to delete your WhatsApp Business App account and convert the number into WhatsApp Business Platform (API) number. However, this process cannot be reversed. Once a number is on WhatsApp Business Platform (API), it must stay there.

Composing New Messages

  • WhatsApp Business App allows you to send and receive messages from customers at any time. There are no restrictions here.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) has a 24 hour rule, which restricts what kind of messages can be sent after 24 hours. Within 24 hours, you can send any kind of message, similar to WhatsApp Business App. However, after the 24 hour window has passed, you can only send template messages that are pre-approved by WhatsApp.

Pricing

  • WhatsApp Business App is free.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API) has per-conversation costs.

Which is right for your business - WhatsApp Business App or WhatsApp Business Platform (API)?

It’s hard to say what is right for you purely based on the size of your company. The choice is actually more complicated than that.

You’ll want to use WhatsApp Business App if:

  • You have less than 500 customers
  • You need one or two people to manage your WhatsApp conversation volume
  • You don’t care how much time you take for a customer conversation
  • You don’t use other online software that you want your WhatsApp conversations to sync with

You’ll want to use WhatsApp Business Platform (API) if:

  • You have more than 500 customers
  • You need more than two people to manage your WhatsApp conversation volume
  • You to minimize response time and maximize your team’s efficiency
  • You use other software products for your business and want them sync with your WhatsApp conversations
  • You have enough business for it to make sense to pay extra to maximize the value extracted out of using WhatsApp as a communication channel
Takeaways

Businesses can use either WhatsApp Business App or WhatsApp Business Platform (API) to talk to their customers over WhatsApp. Both have their own set of features and benefits, so it really depends on your needs as a business owner.

If you’re a very small company looking to communicate with your customers on WhatsApp, then WhatsApp Business App is a great option. It’s free and simple to use. Plus, you’ll have all the features of WhatsApp that you’re used to, like group chats and voice calls.

However, if you’re a larger company or if you need more features, such as automated messages or sync with your CRM, then WhatsApp Business Platform (API) is the way to go.

Either way, customers want to talk to businesses through channels that they’re comfortable with and being available for your customers on WhatsApp is very valuable.

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