WhatsApp is continuing to open itself up to business use: in January 2018, WhatsApp launched a business app for smaller companies. On 1 August, the WhatsApp Business API for larger companies was presented that is currently being tested by chosen companies such as Uber, Booking.com, KLM and Singapore Airlines. We have analysed the new API for you and inform you what this innovation means for your customer communication via WhatsApp.
The new service runs for recipients in the conventional WhatsApp application. A Business Account is required for use as a company, which must be created via the Facebook Business Manager (WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2016).
Setting up the WhatsApp Business API and chatting with customers will possibly be free-of-charge. WhatsApp Inc. is not presently providing any specific details about possible costs. However, what appears certain is that a charge will be levied for notifications sent by companies to their customers. And hosting the API - which is not a simple matter - is the responsibility of the company using the service.
Customer support - yes, broadcasts - no
First and foremost, the WhatsApp Business API is intended to facilitate direct, real-time communication in customer service. Users are provided with a simple way of requesting status queries or making support enquiries.
Bulk mailing of messages via WhatsApp (“broadcast”) is currently not the focus and is only possible via the WhatsApp Business API in a very limited way. This is due to, among other things, the throughput limit of only 15 messages per second, as indicated by the API documentation.
For the reliable sending of e.g. WhatsApp newsletters, companies are better advised to use third party services such as those we offer including WhatsATool and websms WhatsApp. We achieve considerably bigger throughput rates using our specially developed solutions for WhatsApp bulk mailing.
What can the WhatsApp Business API do, and what can it not do?
The following is indicated by the API documentation:
- send and receive messages
- send and receive attachments – videos cannot be sent, but they can be received
- click-to-chat buttons for websites and Facebook
- real group chat
- simple opt-in process, but users must consent to the communication
- incoming messages can be replied to within 24 hours, after this time this is only possible with additional restrictions and subject to a fee
- new concept of message templates – must be approved by Facebook
- the templates support placeholders (e.g. for customer numbers) and multiple languages (depending on the origin of the user)
- own landline number can be used as a WhatsApp phone number
- no broadcasts – individual sending with a limit of 15 messages per second
The trouble: hosting the API
“The WhatsApp Business API enables medium-sized and large companies to connect with customers around the world” – this is the promise of WhatsApp on its website and for a moment it sounds very simple. However, those that think they can now quickly connect their own systems and send unlimited messages will be disappointed. This is not the case. WhatsApp argues this with the end-to-end encryption in the WhatsApp network right to the recipients. This is explained in the FAQs under the item “Why do I have to host the WhatsApp Business API Client with a database? Why isn't there just an API for me to call?”
The WhatsApp Business API comprises several parts or modules; you could also describe it as “virtual WhatsApp on a mobile phone”. WhatsApp provides ready-made packages for operations. There is a module that connects to the WhatsApp network, a second is the API itself, which can be used to communicate, and a third is the database. The installation and operation of all of these modules is no small undertaking and you need a competent IT team for it. This requirement is ongoing, because the condition of the individual modules must be checked daily, updated and maintained.
The complex hosting will be the sticking point for most companies that wish to use the WhatsApp Business API in future. At least as far as in-house operation is concerned. With this in mind, it is recommended to undertake a thorough examination of whether all the tasks associated with the operation of the WhatsApp Business API can be provided more reliably and cost-effectively by working together with a specialist business messaging service provider.
How do companies get the WhatsApp Business API?
- Each company first requires a WhatsApp Business Account that is created via the Facebook Business Manager.
- Each WhatsApp account is a telephone number. This must be stated and verified by WhatsApp.
- After the telephone number has been authorised, the company itself undergoes verification by WhatsApp.
- Only now can work start on the technical installation. The guide for this is found here: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/whatsapp/getting-started
- If you decide on external hosting of the API (which will be necessary for most companies for the reasons specified above), you provide us with the certificate for your Business Account and we undertake all the technical steps.
- Your message templates must always be verified and approved by WhatsApp – we can also help you with this.
It is very welcome that WhatsApp is increasingly opening itself up for business use. In communications between companies and customers, WhatsApp is increasingly in demand, as shown by the diverse WhatsApp best practices from different sectors.
However, use of the WhatsApp Business API requires a lot of technical expertise as well as the corresponding personnel resources (keyword “hosting”). In addition, the focus is clearly on 1:1 communication with users. The WhatsApp Business API is currently not the right solution for the bulk mailing of WhatsApp messages.
Whether you now require for your company reliable broadcast mailings via our existing applications WhatsATool or websms WhatsApp, or support and hosting for using the WhatsApp Business API – we are and remain your competent contact and service provider where messaging is concerned!