In August 2018, Facebook announced the launch of WhatsApp Business API: let’s understand what changes now.
An official date has not yet been released, but it looks like that from the beginning of 2019, WhatsApp will finally open up to the “general public” of companies that will want to manage the interaction and communication with their customers in a structured way, through the most widespread messaging app in the world.
Already from September 2018, WhatsApp has granted to 90 pre-selected companies, including Booking.com, KLM Airlines and Uber, the ability to send non-promotional messages through its APIs: this means that the main purpose of the communications sent to the user will have to be transactional and without marketing purposes, but we’ll get back to this point later on in the article.
“WhatsApp Business APIs have already been released to the first big companies”
With the release of WhatsApp’s APIs, Facebook had finally decided to begin the process of monetization of the application, acquired back in February 2014 for the modest sum of $16 billion dollars.
The decision is further motivated by the drop in users (about 3 million) recorded by the social network in the first 3 quarters of 2018, and by the losses recorded after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which caused a loss of $120 billion dollars in the company’s stock evaluation.
Although Zuckerberg has always defined the process of monetization of WhatsApp as a long-term goal, it seems that the release date of the long awaited APIs is now close, despite the official cost of the service for companies has not yet been made public.
Well, it’s very simple: as mentioned above, companies will be limited to a strictly transactional communication with their users/customers.
Anything that happens as a result of a transaction, such as the communication related to a purchase via an e-commerce or a support request from a customer, can be managed through this service.
Boarding passes, shipping confirmations and customer support are destined to go more through the green-phone app and less through traditional e-mails and text messages.
Also customer support can finally be structured by this channel (with solutions like Callbell); however you will need to get the opt-in from the user before starting the conversation.
This means that the user must make the first step and start the conversation with the company. For this reason, companies that want to use this tool as a support or sales channel will have to facilitate the start of the chat by providing their business number or by embedding a click-to-chat widget on their website.
Warning: it won’t be possible to send messages for promotional purposes, newsletters or any marketing content through WhatsApp. Users who will use the system for this purpose will be promptly blocked and banned from the platform.
If you find online services that promise to send newsletters or promotions through the app, be aware of Facebook’s imposed rules by on the use of direct messaging tools, including Messenger and Instagram Direct.
All we have to do now is wait for the beginning of 2019 to find out how WhatsApp will change the way companies communicate with their customers with an approach that seems increasingly based on instantaneity, guaranteed by mobile messaging.
How to request access to the WhatsApp Business API?
To start using the WhatsApp Business API, your company need to be approved by WhatsApp: the access can be requested through Facebook or one of its partners such as Twilio, Nexmo, MessageBird etc.
What can I do using the WhatsApp Business API?
Through the WhatsApp Business API it will be possible to provide customer support using external platforms to manage incoming requests and send transactional messages such as order confirmations, boarding passes and password reset.
Is it possible to send newsletters via WhatsApp?
No, it is not possible to send newsletters or promotional messages through the WhatsApp Business API.
About the author: Hello! I am Carlo and I am one of the co-founder at Callbell, the first communication platform designed to help sales and support teams to collaborate and communicate with customers through direct messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram and (soon) Instagram Direct