WhatsApp is one of the world's most popular instant messaging apps, with more than 2 billion users globally. This is why many businesses today see WhatsApp as a valuable channel for communicating with their target audiences, including new and existing customers. By leveraging WhatsApp, you can enhance the customer experience and increase brand awareness, sales and engagement.
Can you achieve your marketing and communication goals using the regular WhatsApp app? Or should you upgrade to a business account? In this article, we explain the difference between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business in terms of features to help you decide. But first, here's a quick overview of WhatsApp's business solutions...
The two forms of WhatsApp Business
WhatsApp was initially created for personal use, enabling people to chat instantly online with friends and family. It became clear, however, that this app had plenty of commercial potential, which is when WhatsApp rolled out its business offering.
WhatsApp Business has more advanced features and functionality than the regular version of WhatsApp. And companies of all sizes can leverage this to reach prospects and customers directly and provide them with a unique mobile experience.
There are two WhatsApp business products to know about: the WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business API. Which one you choose depends on your business size and communication requirements.
WhatsApp Business App vs WhatsApp Business API
The WhatsApp Business App is a regular app you install on your mobile phone (there's also a web version). It's best suited to small businesses exploring text marketing that want to converse with customers one-to-one or in small groups, so it's good for customer support.
The WhatsApp Business API is now known as the WhatsApp Business Platform. Because it's an API (a mechanism that enables two software solutions to talk to each other), you need to use it with a third-party provider who can integrate it into your existing business systems. This version is best for large enterprises with more complex communication needs.
Comparing WhatsApp vs WhatsApp Business
So, how does the regular version of WhatsApp differ from WhatsApp's business solutions? Here are ten points of difference between them.
1. Account creation and registration
You’ll download regular WhatsApp from Google Play or the App Store and sign up for an account with an active mobile number. This could be your personal or business number. You'll then go through SMS authentication to confirm your identity. Once you log in, you can add the contacts from your mobile phone and start messaging them (as long as they also have WhatsApp and you have their permission). You'll start with a clean slate, and all future logins will restore previous chats from a local or cloud backup.
The WhatsApp Business App process is similar, but you can choose a mobile or landline number to register your business. Then you'll set your business name and start building your profile (more on this later). With the WhatsApp Business Platform, unless you're a developer, you'll need to choose an approved WhatsApp partner (third-party platform) to help you integrate the API and set up your account.
2. User interface
WhatsApp has a simple user interface that's familiar to most people. When you open the app, you'll see three tabs at the top: Chats, Status and Calls, plus a few other options via the three dots at the top right of your mobile screen.
With the WhatsApp Business App, you'll still see the Chats, Status and Calls tabs, plus many other options like your business profile, product catalog and numerous messaging tools. If you partner with a business solutions provider to integrate the API, you can also get a custom layout built specifically for your requirements.
3. Verified profiles
In short, there's no such thing as a verified profile on regular WhatsApp. But with WhatsApp Business, you can build a professional profile with your company name, logo, contact information, web address, physical address and business opening hours. Once WhatsApp verifies your business, you'll get a green tick (trustworthy badge of honour) next to your contact name so your audience knows you're legit. This all helps to grow your presence online.
4. User access management
WhatsApp can be used by one user, with one number, on one phone. That's the rule, and there are no exceptions! It's impractical for businesses to use it effectively since it would be tricky for one person to handle all WhatsApp conversations (unless you're a solopreneur). And if you sign into WhatsApp on another phone, it'll automatically log you out of the first phone. You can link WhatsApp to other devices like a tablet or companion phone, but there's a limit of four devices, so this option isn't suitable for larger teams.
WhatsApp Business can be used by multiple people via multiple devices, allowing more of your employees to reply to customer conversations wherever they are. The exact number of users permitted depends on which WhatsApp Business solution you have access to.
The WhatsApp Business App supports four linked devices, like the personal version. But if you upgrade to WhatsApp Business Premium (an optional monthly paid subscription that gives you access to more business tools), you can add up to ten devices and assign chats to agents. The greatest flexibility for user access management comes with the API – an unlimited number of users can be added.
5. Contact management
The personal WhatsApp messenger means you'll manually manage your texting list on your mobile device. There's no easy option for segmenting your audience or organising your list for better targeting.
A WhatsApp Business account gives you some advanced contact management features like making lists and assigning each with a category, e.g., leads, new customers, VIP customers, suppliers, inactive customers, etc. You can also efficiently add new contacts and edit or remove old ones.
WhatsApp lets you send messages in bulk to anyone on your contact list, providing they've also added you on WhatsApp. Broadcast messages can be sent to 256 contacts at a time, but use this feature with caution – if someone reports you for spamming, your account could be banned. Note that you're not allowed to send automated bulk messages with the basic version of the app. You can, however, create groups and participate in them.
The WhatsApp Business App is similar in that you can't send mass messages to contacts who don't have your number saved (this helps protect users against potential spam). Group chats work the same way, and you'll also be able to create lists, which is helpful for audience segmentation.
The API enables you to broadcast messages to a much larger audience and import contacts (which you can't do with regular WhatsApp or the WhatsApp Business App). You can't, however, participate in group chats via the API.
If you plan to send broadcast messages, be sure every contact on your list has opted in to receive them; otherwise, you could breach WhatsApp's policies and data protection laws.
7. Automation capabilities
Regular WhatsApp doesn't allow for message automation or scheduling. But WhatsApp Business does. It's easy to send automated text responses like welcome or away messages using pre-approved templates devised according to your brand voice and style. You can also save up to 50 'quick replies' to answer common customer questions; these can include text, images or videos.
8. Product catalogs
Catalogs are a convenient way to showcase your products and services, but they don't exist on personal WhatsApp messenger – only in WhatsApp business accounts. Catalogs are brilliant marketing tools, especially for e-commerce businesses.
You can create an item accompanied by beautiful images, a compelling description, a product code, the price and a web link. These are easy to share as messages, and customers can also view your products entirely within WhatsApp (and even pay within the app in certain countries). This makes the browsing/buying experience more seamless.
Click-to-chat is where someone can click on a web link to start a one-on-one conversation with your business. WhatsApp doesn't have an option for this. However, it's possible to share a private QR code which works similarly.
This QR code option is available with a WhatsApp Business account too – and you can also offer click-to-chat via links on your website and social media platforms (e.g. as the CTA button on a Facebook ad). To make things nice and easy for the customer, there's an option to include a pre-typed message that displays as soon as the chat opens, so all the customer has to do is tap 'Send'.
Normal WhatsApp is free to download and use for sending and receiving messages and phone calls. You might have to pay a fee to your mobile phone or internet provider for data usage (depending on your plan).
The WhatsApp Business App and API are also free to download and use. However, exchanging messages via the API does incur costs. Pricing is based on the type of conversation you're having and the region you're sending to. There are four conversation categories, and you'll be charged per 24-hour conversation window. Customers can send you messages for free.
Which is better, WhatsApp or WhatsApp Business?
There are some significant differences between a 'normal' WhatsApp account and WhatsApp Business. The former is for personal use and is therefore restricted in functionality and features. In contrast, the latter gives you many valuable tools to boost brand awareness, sales and customer engagement. You can set up a WhatsApp business profile, create a product catalog (and share it easily), segment your audience, send automated messages and use click-to-chat. The API gives you even more capabilities, such as broadcast messaging to large audiences and different conversation categories, like authentication and marketing messages.
If you're serious about reaching customers and leads on WhatsApp, you'll get better results with a business account. Which one you should choose depends on the scale of your messaging needs, and your budget.
Learn more about messaging solutions for small business owners and large enterprises via our blog.