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WhatsApp Business API: The Ultimate Guide

Have you been considering using the WhatsApp API for your business but are unsure of what it entails or how it functions? In this comprehensive guide to the WhatsApp Business API, we’ll address all your questions and provide insights into what it is, how to create a WhatsApp API account, manage contacts, and send WhatsApp API messages while adhering to best practices.

WhatsApp has become a ubiquitous platform for personal communication, and businesses are increasingly recognizing its potential as a tool for connecting with their customers. The WhatsApp Business API is a dedicated solution designed for medium to large companies looking to harness the power of WhatsApp with multiple users. Unlike the WhatsApp Business App, the API does not have a standalone app or front-end interface; it needs to be seamlessly integrated into a messaging software to enable business-customer interactions.

To gain access to the WhatsApp Business API, companies have two primary options. They can either acquire it directly from Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, or, more commonly, through third-party services known as WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSPs). These BSPs facilitate the integration and management of the WhatsApp API, making it easier for businesses to leverage the platform for customer engagement.

WhatsApp Business API is a dynamic space with different types of BSPs, each offering unique integration solutions and services. To simplify the landscape, we can categorize these BSPs into two broad types: SMS providers and others.

WhatsApp for Business API: Business Solution Providers

  1. SMS Providers: Companies like Twilio and Vonage integrate the WhatsApp API with their proprietary API. While this approach ensures the functionality of WhatsApp for business use, it requires more time and effort on the part of the BSP to incorporate and update new WhatsApp features. Therefore, businesses using SMS providers may experience delays in accessing the latest WhatsApp API features.
  1. Others: These BSPs use proxy APIs that closely mimic WhatsApp’s infrastructure. This approach streamlines the process of enabling new WhatsApp Business API features, ensuring faster updates. However, the speed at which these updates are implemented still depends on the hosting options offered by the BSP.

Now, let’s delve into the hosting options available for the WhatsApp Business API. BSPs typically offer two hosting options: WhatsApp On-premises API and WhatsApp Cloud API.

  1. WhatsApp On-premises API: This option involves hosting the WhatsApp API on a BSP’s server or a business’s own server. Companies opting for this approach will not be able to access new WhatsApp API features until their BSPs manually perform API software upgrades.
  1. WhatsApp Cloud API: In contrast, the Cloud API is hosted on Meta’s cloud servers. This option provides businesses with quick access to the latest API updates and features. It is worth noting that Cloud API access was introduced in 2022 and is currently in beta, available to selected BSPs.

The choice between these hosting options has implications for the speed of feature updates and maintenance. While the Cloud API provides quick access to new features, On-premises API users are dependent on their BSPs for updates.

When it comes to WhatsApp API pricing, there are variations based on the hosting type and service provider. To recap, businesses can host the WhatsApp On-premises API on a BSP’s server or on their own server. When businesses host their API, they not only need to pay their BSP for WhatsApp API access but also cover the costs of API hosting and maintenance. In addition, BSPs that offer On-premises API must pay a fee to WhatsApp, which is often passed on to businesses, sometimes with a markup to generate a profit.

WhatsApp API pricing

On the other hand, WhatsApp Cloud API access is free, with no server hosting or maintenance fees, as Meta hosts the API on its cloud servers. Businesses using Cloud API only need to pay conversation charges according to WhatsApp’s conversation-based pricing. To avoid additional costs, businesses can choose a BSP like Leadshouse, which offers WhatsApp Cloud API without markups or extra fees.

Now that we’ve explored the basics of WhatsApp Business API, let’s take a closer look at its key components:

WhatsApp Business API Components

  1. WhatsApp API Business Profile: A WhatsApp API Business Profile allows businesses to provide customers with more information about their offerings. Businesses can optimize their profiles by updating their cover photos, descriptions, addresses, emails, and websites. Unlike other messaging apps, the WhatsApp API Business profile is not searchable within the app.

WhatsApp API Business Profile

  1. WhatsApp API Phone Number: A phone number must be associated with your WhatsApp API account. Depending on your BSP, you can either purchase a phone number or port an existing one. It’s important to note that the phone number linked to your WhatsApp API must be capable of receiving calls or SMS. While migration from the app to the API is possible, going back from the API to the app is not recommended as it may result in a loss of account information associated with the phone number.

API WhatsApp: Phone number

Phone numbers tied to your WhatsApp Business Account (WABA) are managed through Facebook Business Manager. The number of phone numbers that can be linked to your WABA depends on the verified status of your Facebook Business Manager. Unverified businesses can only connect up to two phone numbers to their WABA. Verified businesses have higher limits.

Messaging Limits

In terms of messaging limits, unverified businesses are initially limited to messaging 250 unique contacts in a rolling 24-hour period. Once verified, businesses can achieve higher messaging limits, allowing them to send messages to more unique contacts within the same time frame.

API WhatsApp: How to increase phone number messaging limit

Phone Number Quality Rating and Status: WhatsApp assesses the quality of your phone number, which influences your business’s conversation quality and satisfaction among customers. Quality ratings are categorized as High (green), Medium (yellow), or Low (red), based on factors such as the number of blocks by customers, frequency of outbound messages, and response time.

The status of your phone number can be “Pending” (before Commerce Policy check is complete), “Offline” (if you fail the Commerce policy check or cancel your WhatsApp API Account), “Connected” (the default status), “Flagged” (if the quality rating is Low), or “Restricted” (if you reach your messaging limit with a poor quality rating).

WhatsApp API phone number quality rating

A change in quality rating can impact your phone number’s status. To maintain a good quality rating and avoid being blocked, it’s essential to send only high-quality, relevant messages to your contacts.

API WhatsApp: WhatsApp API phone number statuses

Messaging Limits: Messaging limits are based on your phone number tier within your WhatsApp API account. Depending on your BSP, businesses may start at the Limited Access Tier or Tier 1 when registering their phone numbers. The messaging limits apply to business-initiated messages called Message Templates.

Verified businesses can upgrade to higher messaging limits by sending a specific number of messages in their current category within seven days. Additionally, businesses may automatically upgrade to the next tier after 24 hours of reaching the messaging limit, provided they have a good quality rating and a non-flagged status.

Now that we’ve covered the fundamental aspects of the WhatsApp Business API, let’s explore how to create a WhatsApp API account.

Creating a WhatsApp API Account

Businesses have two primary methods to obtain a WhatsApp Business API account:

  1. Classic Signup: This method involves a more traditional approach and requires businesses to go through a Facebook Business verification process. While this process is established, it can be time-consuming and may involve additional requirements.
  1. Leadshouse Express Signup: With this approach, you can quickly create a WhatsApp API account without the need for Facebook Business verification. This streamlined method is designed to offer a hassle-free onboarding experience for businesses.

How to create a WhatsApp API Account

As a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) and customer conversation management software provider, Leadshouse offers businesses instant access to the WhatsApp API. This allows businesses to connect the API to an omnichannel inbox, enabling seamless communication with customers on WhatsApp.

Furthermore, businesses have the option to verify their WhatsApp API account, which leads to the coveted WhatsApp green tick. This verification adds credibility to your business and signifies official recognition from WhatsApp. You can request Official Business Account WhatsApp API verification directly through your WhatsApp Manager or your selected BSP.

How to verify a WhatsApp API Account

To get your API account verified, you need to meet WhatsApp’s requirements, including compliance with their Commerce and Business Policies and being a notable business. WhatsApp typically grants verification to well-known brands with established reputations.

Whether you pursue Official Business Account verification or not, you can start leveraging your WhatsApp API account to its full potential by integrating it with customer conversation management software like Leadshouse or a WhatsApp CRM to send and receive messages efficiently.

WhatsApp API Business: Messaging

WhatsApp API Business: Service Conversations

WhatsApp API enforces a messaging limitation known as service conversations to prevent spam and ensure timely responses to incoming messages. These conversations are divided into two types: user-initiated (service) and business-initiated conversations.

WhatsApp API service conversations

User-initiated conversations allow customers to initiate the conversation, creating a 24-hour window for businesses to respond. After this period, businesses can only initiate a conversation if they meet certain criteria.

Service Conversations: Interactive Messages

Interactive messages enhance customer interaction by providing user-friendly options for selecting products or services. These messages come in four types: List Messages, Reply Buttons, Single Product, and Multi-Product Messages. Single and Multi-Product Messages are particularly useful for showcasing catalogs.

WhatsApp API send message: Types of interactive messages

To further improve customer experience, WhatsApp now requires businesses to have a human escalation pathway in place. This ensures that customers can seamlessly transition from automated responses to speaking with a human agent if needed.

Service Conversations: Human Escalation Pathway

Customers prefer interacting with human agents for certain queries or issues. WhatsApp has recognized this preference and made it mandatory for businesses to include a human escalation pathway. Acceptable methods for escalation include human agent handoff, business phone number, email, web support form, and in-store visit prompts.

WhatsApp human escalation pathway

Without a human escalation pathway, businesses risk having their phone number quality rating lowered, potentially leading to messaging restrictions.

WhatsApp API for Business: Message Templates

After 24 hours from the last incoming message, businesses can only reply using WhatsApp Message Templates. These templates are pre-approved messages used to reopen the 24-hour customer service window or initiate a new conversation.

WhatsApp API template messaging

In addition to standard templates, WhatsApp API supports multimedia and interactive message templates. The former allows for images, videos, or PDF documents, while the latter enables the attachment of call-to-action or quick reply buttons.

Message Template Quality Rating and Status

Message templates are subject to quality ratings and statuses based on customer reception. The rating can be High (green), Medium (yellow), or Low (red), reflecting how well templates are received. Changes in rating may affect the status of the template, which can be Pending, Approved, Rejected, Flagged, or Disabled.

Message template quality rating

To prevent message templates from being disabled, businesses should ensure they only send templates to customers who have opted in.

Message Templates: Opt-ins

WhatsApp requires businesses to obtain opt-ins from customers before initiating a conversation with message templates. Opt-ins can be obtained through various channels, including interactive voice response (IVR), website forms, WhatsApp Ads, WhatsApp links, WhatsApp QR codes, or customer-initiated messages.

WhatsApp API send message: Template messaging opt-in

Verifying and Importing Contacts

Before embarking on the contact importation journey, it is imperative to validate the authenticity of each contact’s WhatsApp number. Failure to do so may lead to a decline in your quality rating, as messaging non-existent numbers can adversely affect your performance.

It’s essential to exercise caution. WhatsApp has implemented strict measures to curb spam and may impose sanctions on API accounts that engage in excessive contact verifications without subsequent messaging, thereby safeguarding the platform against potential spammers.

Verifying and importing WhatsApp contacts

It’s worth noting that WhatsApp API doesn’t retain contact information. Once your contacts are validated, you can seamlessly integrate them into your chosen messaging software or WhatsApp CRM. While the official documentation may not provide exhaustive insights into contact imports, our detailed article in this guide covers the process comprehensively.

Addressing Changing Phone Numbers

In the dynamic landscape of contacts, there may be instances where a phone number changes hands. Businesses might remain unaware of such transitions unless they opt to receive user identity notifications. This serves as an invaluable safety net, ensuring that businesses communicate with the correct contacts.

User Identity Notifications

User identity notifications stand as a crucial mechanism to guarantee precise communication channels. By opting into these notifications, businesses receive alerts whenever messages arrive from a re-registered number associated with a new user.

User identity notifications

This fortification mechanism is instrumental in preventing the inadvertent leakage of sensitive information over WhatsApp. Without acknowledging the re-registration, businesses would be unable to message these numbers. This dual-layered protection ensures both businesses and customers are shielded from potential privacy breaches.

Embracing the Next Level

Congratulations, you’ve successfully navigated through the intricacies of WhatsApp Business API’s contact management. Armed with this knowledge, you’re poised to elevate your WhatsApp messaging experience to unprecedented heights.

Embark on this transformative journey by signing up for the Leadshouse WhatsApp Business API. Unlock the potential of the world’s most popular messaging channel and revolutionize your customer interactions today! Visit our website today.

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