Emails revolutionized communication in the 1990s. Likewise, Instant Messaging apps emerged as the heroes of digital communication in the second decade of the 21st century.
When WhatsApp rolled out in 2009, it broke the mold in the mobile messaging apps market, by creating a thrilling new communication model. Many other messaging apps were launched subsequently – but with billion users, WhatsApp is still the app to beat.
For a long time, WhatsApp remained an entirely personal messaging app that was devoid of advertisements. But thanks to its sheer volume of users, companies were keenly looking at tapping into the marketing potential of this channel. In 2018, Facebook-owned WhatsApp finally opened up to the world of business with the release of its limited-access WhatsApp Business API.
WhatsApp Business API is a B2C messaging channel that is less about bulk promotional messages and more about delivering real-time, relevant, and high-value messages. This is primarily because of its use case restrictions. Blast marketing campaigns and promotional messaging are a strict no-no on this channel.
However, the WhatsApp Business API concept is still in its nascent stages, and both the platform and marketers are exploring its possibilities. Its focus, for now, is on delivering user-initiated support messages and business-initiated transactional messages that are devoid of promotional content.
In this blog, we’ll decode what WhatsApp Business API is, understand its features, figure how you can get started on it and how Insider can help create the best marketing strategies:
- Demystifying WhatsApp Business API
- Features of WhatsApp Business API
- Why WhatsApp Business API is key to your Marketing Strategy
- Insider’s WhatsApp Business API Process
- How Insider can help build winning WhatsApp Marketing Strategies
Demystifying WhatsApp Business API
Although WhatsApp has been around for long, its Business API is a recent addition. Thus, there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding its release and what it means for businesses. To understand it better, let’s address some key questions surrounding the new WhatsApp Business API.
What is WhatsApp Business API?
Aside from the popular messaging app that we are now familiar with in our personal communication, WhatsApp has rolled out two messaging options for businesses – WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API. Both differ in their features and the use cases they support. WhatsApp Business API pricing is also a key differentiating point.
WhatsApp Business API is a tool that allows medium and large businesses to connect with customers across the world. But companies can’t just pay a subscription fee and get access to the API. WhatsApp is opening up for business use in a slow, step-by-step process.
How is Business API different from the WhatsApp we know?
WhatsApp Business API is a limited access API that started off by opening for use for an initial, select group of businesses. To understand how the Business API differs from its fellow WhatsApp apps, let’s take a standalone view of how each one works.
This is the messaging app that we all know well. It’s a personal messaging app, meant for individual use. When it rolled out, it allowed users to send free messages – along with multimedia content – to any of their contacts, anywhere in the world.
The app is similar to WhatsApp Messenger, but meant for small businesses. It’s available as a free download on both Android and iOS and comes with basic support features like a business profile, labels, and fast replies.
WhatsApp Business’s drawback is that it can only handle individual conversations. Also, a business can access one account from a single mobile device – all customer queries need to be answered from that single smartphone. This makes the application non-scalable. Data privacy and GDPR-compliance are some other loopholes.
WhatsApp Business API
Facebook launched WhatsApp Business API to scale its older business messaging model. The API allows companies to receive and send unlimited messages to their users.
However, this application programming interface (API) does not come with its own interface.
Features of WhatsApp Business API
The WhatsApp Business API allows organizations to connect their systems or third party services to WhatsApp so that they can communicate with their customers using this simple and secure messaging service. What are the key features that WhatsApp Business API offers to companies?
- Organizations get listed as a business account and get a business profile
WhatsApp Business API allows companies to create a WhatsApp business profile, which has certain key differences from the regular, private accounts:
- Customers can see an organization’s name and logo at the top of every conversation.
- Customers can chat with companies even when they don’t have their numbers saved as a contact.
- When a business profile is clicked, it shows all the company information in one shot: cover photo, email, website, contact numbers, business hours and office location.
- All official business accounts are verified by WhatsApp and a green tick-mark is added next to the business profile as proof of its authenticity. For customers, this helps build trust in the brand.
- Users have to opt-in to receive messages from businesses
With this feature, WhatsApp ensures that non-consenting users are not bombarded with messages that they have not agreed to receive. User opt-in is mandatory for businesses to communicate with their customers.
Using WhatsApp Business, companies can send messages only to people who –
- Have agreed to receive messages from a business account, by either ticking a box to grant consent and provided their phone number.
- Have previously sent a message on the business account.
Companies also need to clarify what kind of messages they will send to users who’ve opted-in. This could range from flight check-in links and boarding passes, online purchase confirmation or an In-Stock alert.
- Messages come with a 24-hour service window period
Companies that use WhatsApp Business API have a 24-hour window period to reply to incoming customer queries. If this window period is crossed, companies need to seek permission from their customers to contact them again. And this permission can be sought using a predefined message template.
According to Facebook, this rule was implemented to incentivize a quicker resolution of customer issues.
- Predefined template messages to send large volume of messages
Template messages are predefined message formats that businesses can use to send large volumes of messages, like purchase order confirmations, shipping updates or appointment reminders. These messages typically come with a string of text and automatic personalization (of user names and dates, for instance).
WhatsApp provides a number of pre-approved template messages for common user reach-out scenarios. Companies can also create their own template messages for individual use cases. However, these have to be ratified by WhatsApp – and this ratification process takes 1-2 days.
- WhatsApp Business API ensures data privacy and end-to-end encryption
All messages that companies send come with end-to-end encryption. This means no third party, and not even WhatsApp can read these messages, making them a more secure communication mode than emails or texts.
Why WhatsApp Business API is key to your Marketing Strategy?
Marketing on messaging apps has some big advantages for businesses. Let’s go through them:
- Provides data security
Misuse of data has become a growing reality today. Guaranteeing data security is one place where WhatsApp scores huge points. As a private messaging app, it has established itself as a trusted space, where messages are encrypted, no data is shared with third parties and there are no ads. WhatsApp Business maintains this trust by asking businesses to verify their accounts, so that users are confident that they’re communicating with the right company.
- Makes companies accessible to customers in real-time
With WhatsApp Business API companies can send alerts and notifications to their users in real-time – on a platform that most of their customers are already familiar with. Also, if businesses have to send any urgent question or information that needs immediate answering, to their users, WhatsApp Business provides a quick and direct platform to do so.
- Allows companies to engage effectively with customers and get insights
Bulk promotional messaging is not allowed on WhatsApp Business API. However, what is allowed includes:
- Sending surveys and polls.
- Ask direct questions to customers.
- Respond to customer queries.
This makes WhatsApp Business a great engagement platform for companies. They can interact with customers one-on-one, ask questions, garner feedback and answer their individual queries. Also, users are more responsive, as there are no pain points of generic and targeted ads.
- It’s a personalized messaging platform
Since the company-customer communication stays one-on-one, organizations are able to design and deliver personalized communication to their users, thus increasing engagement and increasing leads and conversions. Also, the `confirmed’ status that WhatsApp gives to verified business accounts helps build trust among users.
- Companies can respond in new ways to build trust and engagement
Access to a user’s phone number (through customer opt-ins) allows businesses to reach their customers instantly and in real-time.
WhatsApp Business also offers a `quick replies’ function, where organizations can store and reuse frequently sent messages to further speed up their customer service processes. This is especially useful for industries like banks, airlines and online retailers who can build a permanent response template to send regular updates about their products and services to their customers.
Marketers can also send automated `away’ messages, when it is not possible to answer every customer query – making users feel informed and not kept in the dark.
- Gives a cross-generational reach
With its ease of use, WhatsApp’s personal messaging service is used widely by people across age groups. This gives an edge to companies using WhatsApp Business, as most of their clients – irrespective of age group – are already familiar and comfortable with using the messaging service.
- Companies get insights into customers’ app usage patterns
WhatsApp Business has a messaging statistic feature that allows companies to measure the success level of their communication in many new ways:
- Marketers don’t need to stick to text messaging
They can use videos, photos, PDFs, gifs and voice recordings – and get creative with their messaging. A big asset in today’s post-pandemic world – where payments are increasingly going online – is that companies can send QR codes, as an easy payment option.
Insider’s WhatsApp Business API Process
Installing WhatsApp Business API is not as easy as installing the personal messenger on your phone and signing up with your phone number.
The API at its heart is a docker, and it will need to run in parallel with SQL databases and block storage; the docker itself contains an ever-changing API. Facebook has created a support doc on how businesses can go about this. The API client supports all the features of the WhatsApp messaging app, the only difference being that this client will run on the enterprise server. This is what will enable businesses to programmatically send and receive messages and integrate the API with their own enterprise solutions (CRMs, customer care, etc.)
As you can see, this involves a lot of heavy lifting from the IT and dev teams, therefore businesses would need to have their own in-house tech teams to tackle, integrate and maintain this ever-changing API client. This could turn out to be more than a bite-sized chunk for businesses that do not have a core dev team.
How can Insider help?
Insider has been experimenting and fiddling with the WhatsApp Business API to make it simple to connect your software onto their platform. Essentially, Insider has developed a single line of code that businesses can copy and paste onto their website. From there on, Insider does all the heavy lifting for you.
In a nutshell, Insider provides a complete, end-to-end solution that starts with collecting users, creating WhatsApp Business messaging templates and goes right up to reporting and analyzing customer response.
The Insider WhatsApp Business API solution enables marketers to –
- WhatsApp Business Account Application
Insider takes care of the process of creating and registering a WhatsApp Business account. This entails adding a phone number, creating a display name and submitting it for review – following which your API client has to be registered.
- Message Template Application
WhatsApp Business API offers a number of pre-approved template messages that companies can use to send notifications. Marketers can also create their own template messages for specific use cases. These templates have to be approved by WhatsApp. Insider creates these message template applications for companies, thus saving them the effort of going through a 2 week ratification process.
- Consent Management (enable user opt-in on your channel)
With Insider lead collection features companies can easily place opt-in templates on their web or mobile site for relevant messaging, such as purchase confirmation or boarding passes that comply with WhatsApp policies. With specifically designed messages and lead capture, having a high rate of opt-in will be obvious which creates a wider user base to reach.
- Campaign Automation
Insider takes care of delivering automated messages to your users on WhatsApp following an on-site transaction. The messages can include boarding passes, flight tickets, purchase confirmation, order receipts, event tickets and more which build beneficial conversations with end users.
- Whatsapp Campaign Reporting
Using the Insider reporting and analysis dashboard, companies can track the click and conversions of their campaigns. These metrics can help them optimize their marketing campaigns.
- Campaign Optimization & Adjustments
Insider can seamlessly blend WhatsApp Business along with other customer journey orchestration tools, thus adding it as a new and valuable marketing channel to a company’s communication portfolio.
While putting all these efforts into the process, businesses do not have to keep up with policy updates from WhatsApp and deploy the same on their API clients. Insider takes care of this so you can focus on creating mindful experiences for your users rather than worry about IT and compliance requirements.
How Insider can help build winning WhatsApp Marketing Strategies?
WhatsApp Business is not your regular marketing tool, as the platform strictly does not allow sending promotional messages. Marketers have to think out-of-the-box to deploy WhatsApp Business as an effective marketing missile. For instance, they can use it to get user feedback on their products or services. Armed with this information they can adapt to user requirements and take customer conversations further.
Keeping in mind WhatsApp’s regulations on marketing communication, Insider has developed tailor-made tools that marketers can deploy to use the platform as an effective user engagement channel.
1.Convert cart abandoners using Interactive Cart Reminder
WhatsApp Business API’s policies rule that –
- A brand can send a message to a customer using a pre-approved message template.
- If a customer sends a message to a brand, they can revert in a 24-hour window period. In this period, a brand can send any type of message, including promotional content.
To comply with these regulations, Insider invented Interactive Cart Reminder – a tool that enables its partners to send cart abandonment messages that come with a workaround solution that sticks to the rules, yet sends an effective message across to users.
How Interactive Cart Reminder works
Let’s consider a use case. A user logs on to a retail website, puts a pair of headphones in his cart and then abandons the cart. Insider’s Interactive Card Reminder sends him a message (using WhatsApp’s pre-approved message template) asking about his feedback on the product. This message is set in a question format:
“Hi Michael, can we have a minute of your day? After your visit to shoppbagg.com today, do you think the headphones were fairly priced?”
The user is then given two options – he can type 1 if his answer is `Yes’ and 2 if he is going with `No’. The idea behind this strategy is to engage the user, grab his attention and, most importantly, understand why he has abandoned the product in his cart.
The next step is to divide the user’s response into two categories: Yes is a `Positive Response’ and No is a `Negative Response’. The brand now reverts to the user as per the category of his response.
Scenario 1: If Michael responds with a `Yes’, he is sent a cart abandonment message reading, “There is a pair of groovy headphones lying in your cart. Would you like to complete the purchase? Click this link.” The message works as a gentle nudge, reminding Michael of the headphones he has been meaning to purchase.
Scenario 2: If Michael responds with a `No’, he gets a text message, stating, “We are sorry you didn’t have a delightful shopping experience. We offer you a 10% discount coupon to sweeten the deal on your next purchase.” Such surprise discounts can work wonders and users often return to the website and complete the purchase.
Scenario 3: If Michael does not respond to the retailer’s message, he is not disturbed further with any messages. The aim of Interactive Card Reminder is to provide an enhanced user experience, and not bombard customers with unwanted messages.
2. Trigger purchase order updates and flight updates using Insider’s API endpoint
WhatsApp Business API, along with Insider Integration, is a great way for online retailers or airline companies to notify customers about information like order confirmations, flight delays or airport departure gate changes – that need to be relayed urgently and instantly to users.
Let’s take an example. Jamie is a regular shopper on an online electronic website. He has just purchased a swanky new smartphone from the website. It is an expensive purchase and Jamie wants to receive an immediate confirmation about his purchase.
Using WhatsApp Business API and Insider Integration, the retailer sends him an invoice with an order confirmation directly on WhatsApp chat, which Jamie views instantly. The speed at which the confirmation is delivered creates a positive and impactful user experience.
3. Send instant flight check-in and boarding information; deliver seamless web check-in
Airline companies can effectively use WhatsApp Business API to directly send boarding information and tickets in either a text or PDF format to customers. This delivers a seamless user experience and increases cross-sell opportunities.
Let’s consider a use case. Clara has had a hectic day at work and is running late to catch her flight. She knows she can board the flight only if she can skip the check-in queue and head straight for the security check.
Using WhatsApp Business API and Insider Integration, the airline sends Clara a direct web check-in link. Once she has checked in, she receives her boarding pass directly on her WhatsApp chat. Clara is able to catch her flight comfortably and is impressed with the smooth experience the airline delivered to her.
4. Set reminders so that users never miss their schedule
Businesses like airlines or event organizers can use WhatsApp Business API along with Insider Integration to send automated reminders to users, reminding them to not miss an upcoming event or arrive at the airport on time to catch their flights.
Let’s take the example of an airline company. It has pre-set automated messages for all its international flights. These messages are sent to passengers 6 hours before a flight’s departure, reminding them to carry their passports, ensure their visas are stamped and arrive at the airport well in time to complete their immigration and check-in formalities. The messages work as an effective engagement strategy for the airline.
5. Add WhatsApp Business API to your Customer Journey Orchestration
Companies use various touchpoints to reach out to their customers. These include emails, text messages and push notifications. Insider’s Architect is a perfect customer journey orchestration tool for marketers looking for sustained and diverse engagement with consumers through appropriate channels. Companies can now add WhatsApp Business API as a new marketing channel to their kitty of communication tools.
Let’s take an example of an online retailer who saw a huge uptick in consumer traffic on its website during the holiday sale season. In order to convert these customers into long-term loyal users, the retailer launched an engagement campaign.
The company first sent web push notifications, giving details of discounts and the free shipping options available. If a user did not respond to the notifications, it sent emails, with added details on the bespoke product range available on its site.
With such detailed information in their inbox, most users reacted positively, landed on the website and made a purchase. Once a purchase was made, the company used WhatsApp Business API along with Insider Integration to instantly send them an order confirmation and invoice in their WhatsApp chat. The customized engagement made for happy shoppers and gave a boost to conversion rates.
Messaging Apps have emerged as a powerful marketing platform that can help companies achieve high engagement and conversion rates. With WhatsApp Business API now available to marketers, they can bring in high-value, high-visibility and high-traction transactional messaging and company-consumer interaction into their marketing mix.