Your WhatsApp Business Account – From App to Z

WhatsApp has radically changed our private communications. And now, you can leverage its power for your business.

In this guide we’ll walk you through all your options for a WhatsApp Business Account. We’ll cover the most important issues, frequent questions, and how to get started with either the WhatsApp Business App or the WhatsApp Business API.

We’ll cover:

  1. The benefits of WhatsApp for customers
  2. The benefits of WhatsApp for businesses
  3. Relevant WhatsApp statistics
  4. WhatsApp Business App or API?
  5. The WhatsApp Business App
  6. The WhatsApp Business API
  7. WhatsApp Business API pricing
  8. WhatsApp Business policies and limitations
  9. How to introduce your customers to WhatsApp

1
The benefits of WhatsApp for customers

Convenience. For customers, messaging is arguably the most convenient way to communicate with a business because it’s fully aligned with their habits. People already check their mobile messages many times per day .

Contrast that to how email works. After reaching out, you actually have to remember to get back to your inbox to check for an answer. It takes extra cognitive effort.

This aligns with a study conducted by Facebook that asked consumers about their reasons for messaging businesses. 64% of respondents said that it’s because they were “always messaging anyway.” 61% indicated that messaging was the easiest way to contact a business.

A bottle of poison.

Avoiding service frustrations. Now put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment and think about all the frustrations of the traditional service hotline. Extra charges; endless waiting lines; audio-harassment; being forwarded between departments and employees – every time having to explain your issue again.

WhatsApp bypasses all these issues. And as you’ll see later, companies are also incentivized to answer quickly through the customer service window .

2
The benefits of WhatsApp for businesses

The benefits of WhatsApp for businesses are directly connected to the strengths of WhatsApp as a private communication channel.

Reach. Over 20% of the world population actively uses WhatsApp. Like Userlike founder Timoor Taufig put it , “even your grandma uses WhatsApp.”

Service logistics. Messaging is a unique mode of communication in that it allows a conversation to move between a slow, email-like back-and-forth and quick live chat. This makes “hello, are you there?”-concerns obsolete, and it has a big impact on how businesses can deal with service peaks. You don’t have to expand your team or put customers in an annoying queue . Customers know they will get the answer when you’re there.

Open rates. 98% of messaging app messages are opened and read. Compare that to average open rates of email (22%) and the reach of a well-performing Facebook post (7%).

Sales & support. Another study by Facebook showed that over 50% of the participants who messaged with businesses did so across all stages of their customer journey – to ask about a product or service, to make a purchase or reservation or to get support.

Marketing. There’s something unmeasurable yet invaluable about having a presence in your customers’ friends lists. What’s more, in many countries it’s increasingly common to buy directly from companies through messaging apps. And promotional features like Facebook’s Click to WhatsApp allow marketers to jump turn advertisement into direct customer engagement.

3
Relevant WhatsApp statistics

To decide whether WhatsApp is the right channel for your business, it pays to take a look at the numbers.

  • WhatsApp has over 2 billion active users . That is roughly half a billion more than its closest 'competitor' Facebook Messenger. ( source )
  • The average user checks WhatsApp more than 23 times per day . ( source )
  • WhatsApp is the top messenger app in 128 countries . Facebook Messenger trails with the top position in 72 countries. ( source )
  • There are already 3 million companies using WhatsApp to communicate with their customers.
World map showing the leading messaging app on a per country basis.
Source: Hootsuite

For a comprehensive list of WhatsApp statistics, take a look at outsite from 99Firms.

If those numbers convinced you, how do you get started with a WhatsApp Business account? For this, you first need to make a choice between the app or the API.

4
WhatsApp Business App or API?

WhatsApp offers two options for business use. Which one is right for you depends mostly on the size of your business.

The WhatsApp Business App is an out-of-the-box solution built for small businesses – like hairdressers, dentists or small online shops. It offers a set of built-in business features, but its main limitation is that it only allows for one user. So it doesn't work for professional service teams.

The WhatsApp Business API was built for larger businesses with professional customer communication teams. It’s scalable and can be flexibly connected to your existing business solutions and processes.

WA Business AppWA Business API
Target businessSmall to mediumLarge to enterprise
Frontend interfaceYesNo
BroadcastsYesNo
Business featuresBuilt-inThrough business solution
Template messagingNoYes
Agent seats1Unlimited
FlexibilityLowHigh

We’ll quickly describe each solution and then dive into how you can get started with either one.

5
The WhatsApp Business App

This small business solution looks and feels very similar to the regular WhatsApp app. It allows you to set up a business profile and create a catalog with your products and services.

Many small businesses around the world are already using the WhatsApp Business App. Like Boutique de Krioula from Brazil, a country where WhatsApp has made a tremendous impact.

How to get started with the WhatsApp Business App

You can download the app for free in the Apple App Store or in the Google Play store .

Here are the steps to get started:

  1. Get a dedicated phone number. When you use your private phone, the app will ask whether you want to use your current number for WhatsApp Business. This is probably not what you want, as you won’t be able to use it for your private communication anymore.
  2. Download the app. From the App Store or the Google Play store.
  3. Open the app. Click “Agree & Continue.”
  4. Decide whether to provide access to your contacts. If you’ve already been using this phone number for calling with customers, then giving access might make sense. If it’s just your private contacts in there, then there’s no need to give access. Do note that this could be a red flag concerning data privacy . Best to discuss it with your legal consultant.
  5. Set up your profile. Business name, profile picture (normally a logo), and a business category.

That’s enough to get you started. Now let’s look at a few features that distinguish the business app from the one for private use:

  • Business description and info. Let your customers know what your business does, what your business hours are, your website, address, and email address.
  • The Catalog. You can set up a catalog of your products. If you have an online fashion shop, for example, you can display your collection. Upload one or multiple pictures, a title, price, description and, optionally, a link for where to get it and a product code.
  • The Short Link. You want your customers to know that they can reach you on your new contact channel. For this, you can easily share a short link with them. You can even set up an opening message template to make things as easy for your customers as possible.
  • Labels. You can set and add labels to contacts that you’re chatting with. It’s a mini CRM feature.
  • Automated Messages. You can set up a few automated messages that help you manage customer expectations, for example an away message for out-of-business hours or a greeting for new customers.
  • Quick Replies. These are canned messages that you can set up for frequent situations. For example, to thank a customer or to explain a specific policy.
  • Broadcasting. Set up a broadcasting list of up to 256 contacts. You can use this as a type of newsletter.

If you’re the type of small business owner who’s always on the road, then the mobile app is probably right for you. If your working situation is more stationary, then I’d recommend the browser version. This allows you to comfortably chat with contacts using a keyboard.

The main downside of the app is its lack of flexibility and that it doesn't allow for multiple users, i.e. a service team. For this, you'll have to use the API.

6
The WhatsApp Business API

This is the solution built for larger businesses and enterprises. Unlike the app, it lacks a front-end interface. Recognizing that large businesses require flexibility, WhatsApp offers the API so that these businesses can connect it with the customer communication solutions they’re already using.

Overview of Userlike conversations with WhatsApp contacts.
All WhatsApp business communication in one place.

While the setup is a bit more complex (more on that below), it allows businesses to offer WhatsApp support in a professional setting – in a team and with advanced features for support and sales. What’s more, it allows you to have all your WhatsApp customer communication in one place – instead of scattered out across the devices of your employees.

Some examples of businesses already using the WhatsApp Business API are Uber, Booking.com and KLM:

How to get started with the WhatsApp Business API

To use the WhatsApp Business API, your business needs to go through an approval process. There are two ways to approach this.

  1. Partner up with a business solution. You apply for access through various business solutions on the market that already have access to WhatsApp, such as Userlike. Just get in touch with us through this form . For other providers, check out this list of WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSP).
  2. Independently. If you don’t want to connect through Userlike or any of the other solutions –which means that you want to control the entire technical setup yourself– then you can apply for access to the API through this form .

Do note that only “notable” businesses tend to receive access to the API through an independent application. The Philips and Apples of the world. That’s also because taking care of the entire technical setup in-house is not easy. Read more about this in our article on the WhatsApp Business API .

7
WhatsApp Business API pricing

Unlike the WhatsApp Business App, which is 100% free, the API has a paid model. These are the different costs you can expect:

  • Monthly fees. As described above, access to the API is available through enterprise software vendors. Providers such as 360Dialog charge fees ranging from €399 to €1,000 per month depending on the range of functions.
  • Setup costs. Because the API integration is technically complex, many providers charge a one-time setup fee in addition to the monthly fee. For the service provider Vongage, for example, this fee is 1,000 euros per number.
  • Costs per message. Messages sent by customers are always free, and so are the answers that you send back to them within the 24-hour service window. You can still message customers outside of this 24-hour period, but you have to make use of a pre-approved message template and you will be charged a small fee per message. This fee varies by country and monthly volume of messages sent. In the UK this fee is about 3 cents per message template. Check out the full message template pricing overview here . Some providers charge additional fees for message templates on top of that.

With Userlike , you get access to the WhatsApp API in the Business plan. We charge a one-time setup fee but no added charges for template messaging.

8
WhatsApp Business policies and limitations

An important reason why so many businesses are excited to start interacting with their customers through WhatsApp is that it allows them to circumvent the clutter of the email inbox and reach their customers on a relatively untouched channel.

Logically, WhatsApp wants to prevent going down the spammy road that email has travelled. To this end, they’ve put up a Business Policy. Here are what I believe to be its most notable points:

  1. You can only send messages to customers who have sent you a message before or who have explicitly opted in during a relevant user flow – like when making a purchase on your website.
  2. You’re only allowed to send message templates to opted-in customers when it concerns transactional notifications. When you use custom message templates, these need to go through an approval process.
  3. You’re not allowed to send out promotional messages.
  4. When a customer reaches out to you via WhatsApp, you have a 24-hour time window to respond – the customer service window. Outside of this window, you need to ask the customer for permission again through a predefined message template.
  5. The use of automation (i.e. chatbots ) is allowed during the customer service window, but it must include an easy escalation option to human support reps.

WhatsApp also has a commerce policy which outlines goods and services that are not allowed on their platform. Some of these are obvious, like human body parts and explosives; others strike my liberal Dutch ear a tad prudish, so make sure to check out the list .

Another limitation of the API is that, unlike the app, it’s not possible to send out broadcasts. The app allows you to send out broadcasts to up to 256 contacts with any type of content – e.g. promotional newsletters. The API, in contrast, only offers transactional updates, such as booking confirmations. There is no limit on the number of contacts for these confirmations, however.

Verified business accounts. If you’ve already received WhatsApp support from a business, then you might have seen a nice green badge next to the business profile. This adds trust and authority to a profile.

Alas, you have no control over whether your business account will be verified or not. WhatsApp decides this based on a variety of factors, most importantly whether it concerns a notable brand.

So if you’re reading this and you’re working for a well-known company, then your WhatsApp Business account will likely get a verified badge soon after setup. But, if you’re a regular mid-sized business, you likely will have to do without the green badge.

9
How to introduce your customers to WhatsApp

Introducing a website chat such as Userlike to your customers is straightforward; you add it to your website and they see it right away.

A compass.

That’s not the case with WhatsApp. Your customers likely know that you offer support channels like email and phone, but WhatsApp support is still rather new. Also, unlike messaging apps like Messenger and Telegram, it’s not possible to search for businesses on WhatsApp.

What’s more, for the reasons mentioned earlier, you need to get explicit permission from your customers to connect with them on WhatsApp, either through their opting-in or by them reaching out to you first.

For this to happen, you will have to consciously build WhatsApp support into your customer journey. Here are six ideas to do that.

Contact page. You can mention your WhatsApp channel on your contact page. You can show your phone number and/or set up a call-to-action that guides the web visitor straight to a WhatsApp conversation with you either through the mobile app or through the browser version.

Website button. With the same logic of the contact page call-to-action, you could set up a website button for WhatsApp similar to that of website chat. The advantage here is that a subtle chat button accompanies the visitor throughout their entire website experience, so the web visitor won’t ever have to search for it. Below you can see an example of how a BMW dealership implemented a multi-channel button approach.

Screenshot of website of BMW dealership with a WhatsApp button integrated on the site.
This BMW dealership from Zürich offers multiple contact options on the right side of their website.

Transactional confirmations. This is a powerful incentive for getting your customers to opt in to your WhatsApp messages. At checkout, you offer your customer the option to receive their invoice and/or order updates on WhatsApp. KLM Airlines, for example, allows you to manage your flight booking and get your boarding pass all within WhatsApp. Once you’ve made it into your customer’s contact list, they’ll know where to find you when they have another question.

QR code. Customers can also trigger a WhatsApp chat with your company by scanning a QR code with a smartphone. You could use this in combination with billboard ads. If the ad piqued the customer’s interest, they can simply scan it with their smartphone for follow-up questions. You can take a similar approach with the abovementioned Click to WhatsApp ads on Facebook.

Old-fashioned phone.

Phone queue message. Offering your customers multiple contact channels is nice to cover all customer preferences , but it’s also good practice to nudge customers to your preferred channels. Phone support is the most expensive support channel to offer and it also tends to lead to the greatest customer frustrations due to waiting queues, forwarding and having to repeat oneself. Instead of playing a tune for your customers waiting in the phone support queue, you could educate them about your preferred channels with a message like:

“Thank you for your call. Our phone lines are currently full. You are #x in the queue. Please stay on the line. If you prefer, you can also reach us over WhatsApp. Requests through WhatsApp are easier for us to process, and are therefore likely to be resolved faster. You can send a message to [your-number]. I repeat: [your-number].”

A boomerang.

Email auto-reply. Email isn't as bad as phone is when it comes to your stereotypical service frustrations, but it lacks all the benefits that make messaging such a promising support channel. When I send an email to a company, I mentally prepare myself for the likelihood that I won’t get an answer.

To ease such doubts, many companies respond with an auto-reply message indicating how long I can expect to wait. Such auto-replies are also good opportunities for guiding your customers to your preferred channel. For example, by closing off the auto-reply with:

“P.S.: For faster support, reach out to us on WhatsApp: [your-number]”

Get started with the WhatsApp Business API through Userlike

If you’re looking for a professional solution to help make the switch to WhatsApp support, take a look at Userlike . Besides being a solution for WhatsApp, you can also implement it on your website and connect it with other messaging apps.

Userlike logo with the logos of messaging apps around it.

While WhatsApp is most widely used, your customers are divided among different messaging apps. With Userlike, you don’t have to make the decision to exclude a large part of your customer base. With WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, SMS and –last but not least– website chat, you can offer all your customers the same superior messaging experience.

No matter where your customer messages come from, you can answer them all from within your Userlike account. Get an impression of our customer messaging solution through our introduction demo: