Shortly after the WhatsApp Business app was released, Facebook opened access to the WhatsApp API with medium and large business needs in mind.
While the differences are clear for developers, non-technical people have a difficult time with the differences between the WhatsApp Business app and the WhatsApp Business API.
If you’re struggling to understand the differences, keep reading to know the right one for you.
What is the WhatsApp Business app?
WhatsApp Business is a free to download app available on Android and iPhone, and is built with the small business owner in mind.
It was created to solve an untapped need in the market. Businesses were using WhatsApp to communicate with customers but the app didn’t have the right features to do so effectively.
The WhatsApp Business app solved their problems and helped business owners create complete business profiles, display working hours, showcase their product catalog, link back to their website and even set up automated welcome and away messages.
What is WhatsApp Business API?
The WhatsApp Business API was created with the needs of medium to large businesses in mind and can be accessed by requesting access from WhatsApp or by signing up with an API provider.
The API was launched after WhatsApp realized that businesses with larger teams were unable to leverage the Business app due to the 2 active sessions limitation.
The WhatsApp Business API allows developers to build tools that remove these limitations and add features to extend the functionality of WhatsApp. The API is extremely flexible and the features are only limited by the tool businesses integrate with or create.
Differences between WhatsApp Business App vs WhatsApp Business API
Before diving deeper into the discussion, let me give you a quick summary of the differences between the Business App and the Whatsapp API.
Let's dive in a bit deeper into each aspect, as well as some that aren't covered in the table above.
The WhatsApp Business app is a standalone mobile app for small businesses that have fewer customer queries.
The WhatsApp Business API caters to the needs of large businesses that have support teams and handle high volumes of customer messages.
It's not possible to share your WhatsApp Business app and phone number with other team members easily. You can perhaps give them access via WhatsApp Web but they could get logged out.
WhatsApp API allows using a Shared Team Inbox using software like DelightChat. This makes it very easy for your entire team to manage a WhatsApp number and all customer queries from one easy inbox.
Even if you do manage to share the Business app's access with some team members, there's no way for you to know which team member is responding to which customer, whether customers have actually gotten a response and if their problem got resolved.
Whereas a WhatsApp customer support software using Official API, like DelightChat, can help you keep track of each WhatsApp conversation, which team member is assigned to it, and when the customer query got resolved by closing the ticket.
You can set basic auto-responders in the WhatsApp Business app, like a greeting message when a customer messages you for the first time. Or an away message for outside of business hours.
With WhatsApp API, software solutions can help you do this and much more. For example, you could set an automation rule that if the customer sends a message containing the word "refund", you can automatically tag that conversation as [Urgent] and send a different auto-reply than a regular customer message. This is possible using DelightChat.
WhatsApp Voice Call
You can initiate and receive WhatsApp calls on the Business app.
Right now, WhatsApp API does not support voice calling. But they might add support for it soon.
The Business App is completely free to use.
WhatsApp API pricing is on a per-conversation basis. Read our blog post to understand better.
You can send broadcasts to a maximum of 256 recipients using the Business app. However, even there the message would only be delivered to those recipients that have saved your phone number.
With WhatsApp API, you can send broadcasts to up to 100,000 customers per day, even if the customer has not saved your phone number. This is possible using WhatsApp marketing software that connects with the API.
You can only send regular text or media messages using the Business App.
WhatsApp API has a concept called message templates, which supports button type messages. Buttons can be of three types:
- CTA Button - Visit a website
- CTA Button - Call a phone number
- Quick Reply Buttons (up to 3 per message)
WhatsApp Business app does not allow you to create or use chatbot flows.
Since WhatsApp API can interface with external software, you can easily create chatbot flows.
A WhatsApp API number cannot be part of Groups, which is possible with a regular Business app number.
Using WhatsApp API, you can setup and send automated notifications to your customers such as:
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Order confirmation
- Order tracking
- Cash on delivery verification
You could technically send these messages manually using the Business app, but it would take too much effort and cannot scale if your business grows.
FB Business Manager Verification
You need a verified Facebook Business Manager before applying for WhatsApp API access. No such requirement for the Business app.
Convert Business number to API number
It is possible to delete your WhatsApp business app and convert the same number into a WhatsApp API number.
However, this is a one-time process and it cannot be reversed.
In WhatsApp Business app, you can send and receive messages from customers at any time.
However, the API has a concept of 24-hour conversation blocks, where after 24 hours has expired, you can't reply to the customer. However, DelightChat has a special feature that allows you to send messages even after 24 hours using WhatsApp's template messaging.
Compose New WhatsApp Message
With the Business app, you can easily compose and start a new WhatsApp chat with any customer if you have their phone number or their WhatsApp click-to-chat link.
With WhatsApp API, it's not as straightforward. You would have to send a template message to initiate a conversation with the customer. DelightChat has built a feature to enable you to easily compose a new WhatsApp message with a customer using just their phone number.
Can carrier calling and SMS be used on the WhatsApp number?
Yes, regular calls and SMS would work on the phone number that you use with both WhatsApp Business and API.
Both the Business app and API support the WhatsApp's new Catalog feature.
Features of the WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business API
Is it worth adding WhatsApp to your overwhelming support toolkit? Definitely! WhatsApp comes up at the top of the list of messaging apps with over 2 billion monthly active users. This is higher than Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
So being where your customers are, is always good for your business. Take a look at some of the benefits of using the WhatsApp Business app and the API for your ecommerce store.
WhatsApp Business App features that make 1-to-1 customer conversations easier
WhatsApp Business app is free to download and use. It is built with small business owners in mind.
The app lets you connect with your customers, showcase your products and services, and answer their questions throughout their shopping journey.
Here are 6 features of the WhatsApp Business app that make communication easier:
1. Business profile to help customers identify your store
Add a logo, a short description, and your business website to your business account so your customers can easily know who they’re talking to.
2. Display business hours so customers know when you’re active
Showing your business hours lets your customers know when you’re available for orders and customer service and when they may have to wait for a response on their query.
3. Show your product catalog to make browsing and ordering products easier
Set up a product catalog and allow customers to browse through your products and services. They can directly highlight a product and ask you to place an order for them. The payment can be completed through the use of the WhatsApp Pay feature within the business app.
4. Set automated welcome and away messages for instant responses to customers
WhatsApp Business app allows you to create a welcome message that is sent when a customer messages you for the first time. An away message can be set to be sent when a customer sends a query off the business hours.
5. Quick replies to answer repetitive questions easily
A lot of queries and responses are repetitive. With quick replies, you can save your common responses and quickly by using /<quick reply name>.
6. Labels to tag customers with for easier management
Tag customers who have paid, or have a pending payment, your regular customers, and more. Create custom tags to help you identify your customers and separate them into categories so you don’t send an irrelevant message to them.
WhatsApp Business API features that help you scale customer support
The WhatsApp Business API is a pay-per-use product for medium to large businesses. It integrates with your existing ecommerce customer support tools and allows your entire team to answer customer queries from a single WhatsApp Business number.
You can purchase an API subscription from a provider like DelightChat who makes it easy for you to get started.
Getting down to brass tacks, let’s look at the most important features of a WhatsApp Business API.
1. Business Profile with a potential verified green tick
Similar to the WhatsApp Business app, you can create a WhatsApp Business profile with the API. You can add details like your business name, description, and website to the business profile.
Additionally, API users can get a verified green tick. For this, you need to submit your business details to Facebook for verification. If you meet the verification criteria, your business profile picture starts displaying a green tick which helps your business profile stand out as credible to WhatsApp users.
An added benefit is that users can see your business name even if you aren’t in their contact list since Facebook has verified your Business.
2. Create chatbots and conversation flows
With the API, your developers can leverage NLP to respond to customer queries instantaneously. The automation capabilities are only limited to your imagination – think of any use-case that can benefit your business and you can create it through WhatsApp’s Business API with the help of a good developer.
Besides that, you can also create interactive chat bots that send messages with embedded buttons for common queries. This increases engagement with the bot, results in faster resolutions to customers, and reduces the workload of your customer support team.
3. Allow unlimited team members to support customers
Once the API is integrated with a customer support tool, you’re no longer limited to how many users can use the account at a time. Create individual support accounts for each of your team members and allow them to answer customers without ever sharing the main account credentials.
4. Connect the API with your booking and POS systems
Provide instant order and payment confirmations on WhatsApp by integrating with your backend systems. You don’t need to be limited to email/SMS when most of your users are active & engaging on WhatsApp.
Because Facebook ensures that the API isn’t abused, customers aren’t going to be bombarded with spam messages from thousands of businesses and hence are more likely to respond/stay active.
Also read: What are the differences between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business
Benefits of using WhatsApp for your store’s customer support
One of the major benefits that we’ve seen with businesses using WhatsApp is increased trust.
Because Facebook technically forces businesses to resolve customer queries within 24 hours, customers receive much faster responses that delights them turning them into repeat customers and eventually brand evangelists.
After adding WhatsApp to your store’s support channels, you get:
- Increased opt-ins: WhatsApp is a daily-driver and users are more likely to say yes to receive updates on their WhatsApp number
- Off-the-charts engagement: Users on WhatsApp display 1.5x more activity compared to Facebook messenger and even Instagram! The major reason is that they send and receive messages only to those they know. As such, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’ll see engagement numbers that will skew the averages for you!
- Faster resolutions, happier customers: Because of Facebook’s 24-hour restrictions on responses from the API, businesses need to respond quickly and this results in happier customers who stay loyal
- Better conversions with interactive messages: WhatsApp displays a higher message-to-conversation ratio than any other mediums due to the activity levels of its users.
- Increased customer retention: Customers stick around with you because you offer quicker resolutions, good after-sales service, and they can connect with you whenever required.
- Improved brand visibility: Very few marketing mediums allow you to be visible perpetually. With WhatsApp, you’re now in their chat and contact lists and they’ll see you every time they scroll through their chat history or look for contacts.
Also read our guide on how to deliver great customer service using WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Business App or WhatsApp API: Which one to choose?
Now the final question is - which WhatsApp product is the better choice for you. Here are two pointers that will help you make the choice.
- WhatsApp Business App: You’re just starting and acquiring customers. Most of your customers message you on WhatsApp and you’re the only one answering their queries. You receive ~20 messages per day. And you aren’t planning on hiring a dedicated person for customer support anytime soon.
- WhatsApp Business API Provider: Your business is booming and regularly gaining new customers through referrals and other marketing. You receive customer messages on WhatsApp but you can no longer handle them alone. You have to answer more than 50 messages a day on WhatsApp. Your business roadmap already includes hiring a customer support person.
- Shared WhatsApp Business Inbox for Teams: You not only receive messages from WhatsApp but also other channels like Emails, Facebook, Instagram, and more. Time is wasted when the same customer messages from different places and you end up responding twice. Your team members have to keep track of and switch between multiple tabs just to ensure no customer is left unanswered.
The choice between the WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business API completely depends on the stage your ecommerce business is in.
DelightChat: WhatsApp Support & Marketing Solution
If you’ve decided to go ahead with WhatsApp API for your business, try DelightChat.
It is a customer service tool tailor-made for ecommerce brands.
With DelightChat, you get:
- Shared inbox to manage WhatsApp, Instagram, FB, Email & Live Chat queries
- Smart automations, ability to reply quickly using templates, easy team collaboration on support queries
- Official WhatsApp Business API with free Green Tick application
- WhatsApp Marketing features like sending broadcasts to customer lists
- Abandoned cart recovery, order confirmation and delivery notifications (via Shopify integration)
Sign up today to get a personalized demo!