Meta acquired WhatsApp in 2014 as it realized that it had become the go-to communication tool for its users. For many people it is their preferred way of communicating both with friends and the brands they buy from.
We probably take it for granted a bit since WhatsApp has become such a part of our everyday lives. It is so much more than just a messaging app these days, with audio and video calling, file attachments up to 100MB and even in-app payments (though only in India and Brazil for now).
Anyone born after the year 2000 really can’t believe that we actually used to pay to send messages to our friends. Don’t tell them about having to get up to change the TV channel!
Meta developed WhatsApp Business to help small businesses use the platform to communicate with their customers more effectively, without eroding the values that WhatsApp was built on that has seen it become the benchmark for messaging apps.
One of the key benefits of WhatsApp Business is that it enables brands to use a conversational commerce approach to connect with customers individually, rather than a one-way broadcast that they hope will engage with as many people as possible.
They are both apps, but what is the difference between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business, beyond the subtly different logos?
Chat app twins – the same but different
Firstly, we should clarify that businesses are absolutely allowed to use standard WhatsApp on a single device. Many small companies and one-man bands added WhatsApp as an additional way for their customers to get in touch years ago. However, answering every message manually from a single device might become a job in itself as the business begins to grow.
That is where the WhatsApp Business app comes in. As an aside, if you are wondering “Can I convert my personal account into a WhatsApp Business account?”, the answer is a definite yes.
Before discussing the differences between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business it is worth covering what they have in common.
- Charges: Both apps are free to download and easily available on Apple and Android app stores. All messages are free, and there is no in-app advertising that you get with some other messaging platforms.
- Security: WhatsApp is very secure. Both versions automatically apply sophisticated encryption to all messages, including photos, videos, and all attachments. Despite what the conspiracy theorists say, Meta cannot read your messages or see your photos. Unless someone steals your phone and guesses your password, your cat videos really are safe.
- Message Limits: Quite simply, there are none. With both versions you can send as many messages as you like, free of charge. You can group send the same message to up to 256 contacts at once. You may lose a few friends if you do that too often, but it is a useful way for a business to broadcast ‘Updated Shopping Hours’ or ‘We are Moving’ type announcements to customers that have opted in to receiving them.
What are the advantages of WhatsApp Business?
So, we have covered the common ground, but how is WhatsApp Business different to WhatsApp that we all use?
Under the hood both apps have the same architecture and design, and visually the same look and UX. The additional features that you get with WhatsApp Business are not an upgrade as such, but make it that bit more useful for businesses. These include:
- Business Profile: With standard WhatsApp you don’t get many options – name, number and a profile photo (or amusing avatar) are about it. With the Business version you can add all sorts of extra details including your logo, company description, address, and opening hours. With a full profile you can probably answer a good chunk of the day-to-day questions that your customers would contact you about.
- Product Catalogues: Pretty much what is says on the box. This feature enables businesses to present a list of their products within WhatsApp with photos, descriptions, and prices. Up to 500 products can be displayed, with easy link sharing to any social channel.
- Contact Categorization: A business needs to communicate with all sorts of people – customers, suppliers and regulatory bodies. WhatsApp Business has the option to apply color-coded categories to contacts for quick identification. You could also use it to flag VIP customers or even bad payers.
- Message Reporting: Like any communication channel, it is important for businesses to understand how it is being used and what improvements can be made. WhatsApp Business gives you detailed stats both on message delivery and the who, when and where of your customer interactions.
- Automated Messaging: This is the game changer for businesses, and removes the requirement for a person to answer each and every message that is received on the channel. WhatsApp Business offers some simple automation with pre-defined greetings, quick replies, and away messages. But with WhatsApp Business API the door is opened to AI and chatbots with natural language processing capability that can answer customer queries in a conversational way, and even complete sales. That is a whole other subject though.
In summary, WhatsApp Business builds on the great features already available in the messaging app that we all know and love. It is a great tool for small and local businesses whose customers are keen to connect with them on the channel that is part of their everyday lives.
But what happens if you have a serious growth spurt?
WhatsApp Business Solution for Enterprises
For big organizations with a whole different level of communication requirements then WhatsApp Business API provides the scalability, automation and integration options that enterprise business demands.
A word of caution though – while WhatsApp is a great addition to any organization’s omnichannel communication strategy, it is not a silver bullet. With people on the move again after two years isolation you should remember that to use WhatsApp both parties must have data or access to Wi-Fi. For critical communication that has to be seen by the customer, you should have a failover channel that does not require an internet connection.
Generation Alpha may think SMS and Voice are for dinosaurs, but they are crucial channels for ensuring that your messages are delivered (though possibly not in the case of a meteor-related extinction event).
Until then, Infobip has the products and services to help you get conversational with your customers on any channel they choose.
Get the most from WhatsApp Business
Engage with a potential audience of over 2 billion people in 180 countries on the app they use every day.