The evolution of OTT apps and media-rich messaging has changed the landscape for customer communication. Nowadays, people want to have quick and personal chats with businesses, much like they do with friends and family. So businesses must tap into conversational communication platforms as well as traditional channels like email and SMS.

WhatsApp is a popular messaging app with billions of users worldwide. You'll need an official WhatsApp Business account to use WhatsApp for commercial purposes. This gives you access to different types of conversational messaging to help you engage audiences, drive sales and deliver exceptional customer support.

There are two types of accounts to look into – the WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business API. Read on to learn the difference between them, plus six compelling reasons why you need to include WhatsApp in your business communication strategy.

What is WhatsApp Business?

WhatsApp's business solutions enable you to deliver personal customer experiences through meaningful conversations. Here's an overview of the two business accounts and how they differ:

WhatsApp Business App

The WhatsApp Business app is a standalone app that works similarly to the regular WhatsApp mobile app. It's free to download and very easy to use – you don't need to be tech-savvy to use it. It's geared up for small business owners who want to showcase their products and communicate one-on-one with customers.

WhatsApp Business API

The WhatsApp Business API (or WhatsApp Business Platform) has more features and is slightly more technical, requiring integration with a third-party platform. It's a paid-for solution better suited for medium to large businesses wanting to communicate at scale with customers. With the API, you can:

  • Send bulk messages or text blasts.

  • Create conversational messaging flows and interactive call-to-actions (CTAs).

  • Display dynamic product lists.

  • Let customers browse products and buy directly within WhatsApp.

  • Send multi-factor authentication messages.

  • Integrate the API with your existing tech stack.

What is the advantage of WhatsApp Business vs normal?

The WhatsApp Business app or API gives you access to business messaging tools, unlike the regular WhatsApp account, which is designed for personal use. For example, with the free WhatsApp Business app, you'll get a business profile, product catalog, automated messaging – and that coveted green tick that shows your business is trustworthy. The regular app gives you none of this (and the API provides you with much more).

Smartphone screen showing WhatsApp icon

Six reasons you should get a WhatsApp Business account

Let's now dive into some specific advantages of using WhatsApp to reach your target audience.

1. Wide reach

WhatsApp has a user base of more than 2.24 billion people worldwide. You can quickly connect with global audiences with virtually no geographical barriers – it's available in most countries except for a select few where WhatsApp has been banned. Importantly, you can meet your audience where they already are; on the channel they know and like using.

2. Cost-effective marketing channel

WhatsApp's business solutions cater for all company sizes and are based on the kind of customer experience you want to provide. Small businesses can benefit from useful tools, like the WhatsApp business profile and green verification tick, for free just by using the WhatsApp Business app.

If you want to scale up your efforts and move onto the API, you can have four different types of conversations with customers:

  • Marketing – any promotional message, e.g. offers, related product recommendations and abandoned cart reminders.

  • Utility – conversations that relate directly to a transaction, like post-purchase confirmations and recurring billing reminders.

  • Authentication – where you provide a one-time password (OTP) to customers during their user journey.

  • Service – a customer support tool that lets you respond to customer messages (typically enquiries) within a 24-hour window.

Pricing is based on the above messaging categories (you can see the rates in different currencies in Facebook's developer community). Overall, WhatsApp business messages are much cheaper than other targeted channels like phone calls and paid online ads, and can even be more cost-effective than SMS messaging.

It's easy to send broadcast messages or create group chats; both are useful for communicating mass announcements like product news, flash sales or emergency alerts. And you can automate important reminders, order updates, delivery notifications, etc.

3. High customer engagement rate

WhatsApp has extremely high delivery, open and response rates. Your customers will always get your message wherever they are, as long as they're connected to the internet. (WhatsApp transmits messages over WiFi, so there's no reliance on cellular reception). You're literally a push notification away from your contacts – even if your message isn't opened immediately, recipients will likely see it in their notification panel.

Being a well-known chat app, WhatsApp feels very personal and is great for informal, friendly one-to-one communications. It allows you to walk your audience through the desired customer journey, warming them up in early interactions and eventually getting them to seriously consider your offering. Recipients can engage at every stage to ask questions and get the information they need to take the next step – WhatsApp is one of the best platforms for two-way communication.

Furthermore, WhatsApp messages can help improve customer satisfaction, as you can respond instantly to customer service requests. And in turn, this can help with customer conversions and retention.

4. Reporting and analytics

The official WhatsApp Business app gives you basic insights such as the number of messages sent, delivered, read and received. So this can help you track a few major KPIs. However, the WhatsApp Business API expands upon these capabilities, giving you access to more advanced reporting and analytical tools to easily see your campaigns' performance.

For example, because you need a third-party WhatsApp Business solution provider to connect to the WhatsApp API, you can use your chosen platform's reporting module to track many more statistics, such as click-through, conversion and engagement rates. Some providers will give you insights into which type of conversations happen frequently, message response times, how many contacts you've gained or lost, etc.

You can then use these performance markers and stats to identify what's working and what isn't and adjust your campaigns accordingly. You might get better response rates at certain times or drive more sales by tweaking your message copy (it’s always a good idea to A/B test the material you send out).

5. Catalogs

WhatsApp Business solutions let you build a product or service catalog and add it to your profile. A catalog can contain up to 500 items; for each, you can add an image, description, price, product code, and web link.

WhatsApp also has a cart feature to help customers place orders from your catalog – they add the items they want to their cart and send them to your business account as a WhatsApp message to complete checkout. Some countries (India and Brazil) also support in-app payments via WhatsApp's own payment channel.

A WhatsApp catalog can boost the customer experience, allowing people to order online via their messaging app for maximum convenience.

6. Security

Finally, WhatsApp has robust privacy and security measures, offering peace of mind for you as a business owner, and your customers. All WhatsApp messages (including those with attachments) support end-to-end encryption, meaning only you and the recipient can read or listen to the transmitted content. No third party can access the content, not even WhatsApp.

That said, WhatsApp is ideal for customer communications that require secure transmission, like two-factor authentication codes for user verification. Some businesses send OTPs via SMS messaging at the time of login and then follow up with WhatsApp if, for some reason, the SMS fails to deliver.

Person looking at phone and typing on a computer keyboard

Elevate your communications strategy with WhatsApp Business

WhatsApp Business solutions have several benefits, such as the ability to reach global audiences and boost customer engagement – without spending a fortune.

Even with the free WhatsApp Business app, you can set up a business profile, get the green verification badge, create a product or service catalog and access useful analytics. And the WhatsApp Business Platform gives you many more tools at your fingertips, like bulk messaging, customisable message templates, automated messaging flows and detailed insights – perfect for businesses looking to scale.

Want to learn more about WhatsApp for business communications? Start with reading about how to build an effective WhatsApp marketing strategy.