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WhatsApp Business Automation: The Ultimate Guide
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WhatsApp Business Automation: The Ultimate Guide

Illustrator: Xèlon XLF
whatsapp business automation

WhatsApp is the leading messaging app with over 2 billion people using it every month, exchanging, on average, 100 billion messages per day. Therefore, more and more businesses are starting to leverage WhatsApp for business communications automation.

If you’re looking to understand how the WhatsApp Business Platform works, how it’s different from the Business App, and how it can help you grow your business, you came to the right place. This article will help you understand the rules and regulations as well as the opportunities and possibilities WhatsApp automation has to offer.  

Why Choose WhatsApp for Business Automation?

Leveraging messaging apps to reach customers is not a new concept. Businesses have been tapping into messaging channels like Facebook Messenger, Viber, or Telegram for years. 

Why zoom in on your efforts on WhatsApp, then?

The platform is quickly becoming a business automation leader and the statistics only strengthen its sovereign position in the field. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app and, when thrown in the basket with all social and entertainment media WhatsApp is second only to Facebook and YouTube. 

whatsapp for business statistics

From a global perspective, WhatsApp is the number one communication app in most countries around the world. 

whatsapp usage regions

Furthermore, despite concerns that users will not like businesses “invading” WhatsApp, the responses are largely positive due to overwhelming convenience. 

whatsapp for business benefits

Customers value quick responses, freedom from the limits of business hours, the ability to share and receive media files, personalized conversations, and more. 

If you are looking to automate your business processes, WhatsApp provides a powerful channel with wide reach as well as increasingly business-friendly features. 

For more compelling statistics and reports about WhatsApp and messaging automation in business, check out the data compilation below.

Types of WhatsApp Business Accounts

The Business accounts WhatsApp offers—or better said, Meta—include:

  • WhatsApp Business App
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API)

What is WhatsApp Business App?

WhatsApp Business app is a free mobile app available on both Android and iPhone. This solution was built to assist small business owners. It feels and works just like WhatsApp messenger, simplifies customer interaction, and saves time by providing a series of small automation features:

  • Business Profile provides helpful information like your address, business description, email, and website. It helps establish trust as it helps brands create a familiar face and identity. To increase the trust factor further, you need a verified badge next to your company name, though to earn that WhatsApp has to confirm that it’s a verified business account. 
  • Quick Replies are pre-designed messages to answer the most common questions and queries. They let you save time since you don’t have to type out the same message over and over again. Instead, you just reply by pressing the “/” on your keyboard to select the desired quick reply and send.
  • Automatic Greeting Message is a fully customizable message users or customers will receive when they kick start a conversation with your business or whenever they message you after 14 days of inactivity. 
  • Automatic Away Message is similar to the greeting message except this one is sent out when users try to reach out to you outside of office hours. It’s a great way to ease the worries and ensure the customer you received the message even if you are not there. 
  • Contacts Labels allow you to organize your contacts and categorize them under labels (e.g., “new customer” or “pending payment”) for easy access and better service. Thanks to the labels you will be able to filter contacts as well as easily remember the last issue you discussed with a particular customer without having to read through the entire conversations. 
  • WhatsApp Broadcast enables you to send a message to multiple contacts at once while, to the users, it appears to be an individual message from you. You can create broadcast lists (up to 256 contacts) which are pre-saved lists of message recipients to whom you can repeatedly send broadcast messages without having to select them each time. To be able to send a broadcast message the contact must have your number saved in their address book
  • Message Statistics allow you to access and see vital data such as how many of your messages were sent, delivered, and read.
  • Catalogs enable your company to feature your products so users can easily browse through them without leaving the app. Thanks to the product catalog, there is no need to send every item, price, or product description one by one, it’s all there! 
  • Collections were added to WhatsApp Business in October 2021. They were designed to further simplify the in-app shopping experience. They act as folders that let you group products inside a business account so your customers don’t have to scroll through all your products when looking for something specific
  • Interactive Business Message makes communication more fun and interactive by adding buttons to your messages. There are two types of buttons. A classic CTA that redirects the user to a website or a Quick Reply button that lets the users answer your question with pre-defined options instead of typing the answer out manually. 
  • List Messages and Reply Buttons are newer formats of interactive messages only released in June 2021. The list messages enable you to add up to 10 options to a message, so users could simply click on their preferred option instead of typing it all out. And, reply buttons enabled customers to make a quick choice from up to three options by simply tapping on it.
  • Facebook Shops Integration is a feature that enables you to create a customized shopping experience for your business and integrate them across all apps in the Facebook family.
  • WhatsApp Payments is an in-app payment processor currently only available for selected countries (India and Brazil), though WhatsApp is working or increasing its availability. The system is powered by Facebook Pay (processed by Cielo) and Novi, Facebook’s digital wallet. Thanks to this feature, you can request and receive payments without leaving the chat.
  • WhatsApp Business Directory is a new Business app feature currently only available in Brasil and only for Android. It helps businesses to get discovered on a map that WhatsApp users can use to find local businesses without leaving the chat app.

All in all, WhatsApp Business App offers numerous ways to help your business streamline customer communication. However, since it’s an app tied to a specific device and number, it only ever allows one person to take care of the communication. This is all cream and peaches if you are indeed running a small business. However, if your business starts to grow or it’s already too big to begin with, the business app simply won’t do. 

What is WhatsApp Business API?

Unlike WhatsApp Messenger (the consumer app) and WhatsApp Business (the small business app), the WhatsApp business platform is not an app, but a programming language interface that enables you to connect without customers at scale and offers advanced capabilities. It’s designed with medium and large businesses in mind. 

Using the API, businesses can connect an unlimited number of agents and bots to interact with customers either via live or fully automated conversations. Additionally, the API can be integrated with many such as CRM management systems, analytics, marketing platforms, and any other 3rd-party apps. 

The WhatsApp Business Platform consists of the following three types of APIs:

  • WhatsApp Business Platform Cloud API. The Cloud API lets you send and receive messages to and from your users/customers using Meta’s cloud-based servers. Since they do the heavy lifting, you avoid the operational costs of hosting your own servers and can focus on scaling your business messaging instead.
  • WhatsApp Business Platform On-Premises API. The On-Premises API lets you send and receive messages to and from customers using your own servers.
  • WhatsApp Business Management API. The Management API lets you manage your WhatsApp Business Account settings and assets, and get status updates.

It all sounds quite complicated but that’s why doing it all yourself is not the only option. You can also decide to go with an on official Business Solution Provider (BSP) like Landbot. 

BSPs are third-party solution providers offering expertise on the WhatsApp Business Platform. These BSPs can help you manage customer communication on the WhatsApp Business Platform for the approved use cases. Many also offer services such as live chat management platforms for your agents or no-code or low-code solutions to build business chatbots and launch campaigns and so, making the API adoption process significantly easier. 

Is WhatsApp Business Automation the Right Fit for your Industry?

Of all automation platforms, WhatsApp has a universal appeal due to its large and active user base. 

While there are hardly any businesses that would say no to WhatsApp, the messaging platform has a very strict commerce policy regarding the industries that can use the API service. The list of banned industries includes: 

  • Independent software vendors;
  • Any real cash industries like gaming and gambling;
  • Adult content and entertainment;
  • Animals;
  • Arms;
  • Alcohol and tobacco;
  • Supplements and other medical drugs

If your business falls under or touches on any of the above domains, it’s pertinent you review the commerce policy to see in what extent–if any–you would be able to use the WhatsApp business automation. 

For example, while you cannot use the service to transact animals you can use it to sell animal products as well as veterinary, grooming, boarding, or pet adoption services. Similarly, while you cannot participate in the sale (renewals and upgrades included) of digital content, digital subscriptions, or a digital account you can promote and sell authentic audio or video CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray as well as digital devices such as smartphones, video game consoles, and TVs.

The good news is that all the other industries like finance, real estate, or eCommerce have the green light to explore and benefit from digital transformation and a wide variety of use cases across the entire buyer journey. 

If you are interested in learning more about the different ways to leverage WhatsApp automation in a specific industry, check out the use case compilations below!

When & Why Switch from App to API?

Many businesses are already actively using the WhatsApp Business App to offer customer service and engage with your customers. While the app might be serving them just fine, the API benefits—such as having a chatbot—are hard to ignore.

Nevertheless, setting up the WhatsApp Business Platform with API is not a particularly quick or easy process. Before you make your move, it’s key to understand the extent of your needs as well as all the benefits and drawbacks involved in the switch. 

How do you know your business truly needs an upgrade from the Business app to API?

There are several factors to consider but it all comes down to performance. For example, the simple WhatsApp web feature stops being seen as an advantage of being able to communicate using a desktop and, instead, becomes seen as a limit that only allows one person to communicate with a customer at a time—which in turn, negatively affects the quality of your service or conversion rate.

All in all, consistent laps in performance such as a growing number of unanswered queries, lengthy response time and discoordination in answers are good indicators of whether a switch is necessary.

Want to learn more? Check out the guide below.

How to Set up WhatsApp Business API?

As mentioned in the above section, Meta is very careful about who gets access to WhatsApp Business Platform. It’s understandable since the messaging app is famous for putting the user first. How that translates into the API application process?  It’s a strict procedure that can take 2 to 4 weeks since WhatsApp needs to verify your business as well as the use cases for which you plan to use the service. 

You can apply for the API:

  • Directly
  • Via an official BSP that manages the process for you

To learn all that goes into the WhatsApp API application process or how to migrate your WhatsApp phone number if you wish to keep it, check out the documentation below.

Getting Started with WhatsApp Automation

Once your WhatsApp API application is approved, the work is not done. In fact, it’s only just beginning as there are several layers to getting you started automating your business process management. 

Audience

Even with the API privileges, to WhatsApp, user experience always comes first. Hence, you are not allowed to message people or customers who did not agree to be contacted via this channel. 

WhatsApp calls this an “active opt-in” and it requires businesses to not only ask for permission to contact users via WhatsApp but also requires them to clearly state what type of communication they will be sending

The word “active” is key. It means you cannot camouflage the WhatsApp opt-in as part of another action and just announce to the user that, for example, they will “receive WhatsApp notification about delivery status” just because they purchased something. The customer must perform an action such as typing in their numbers or clicking the “opt-in for WhatsApp updates” button. 

For the step-by-step opt-in rules and processes as well as ideas on growing your WhatsApp audience, see the resources below. 

Message Templates

The next step are your message templates. ​​A WhatsApp message template also known as a Highly Structured Message (HSM) is a message format you reuse over and over again to contact users once they have opted-in. 

There are five key things you need to know about these templates. They are: 

  • Proactive and reusable (think of them as notifications your business may want to send to users automatically);
  • Highly structured (they must comply with very strict structure guidelines);
  • Subject to approval (before you are allowed to use them, the templates need to be submitted to and approved by WhatsApp);
  • Customizable through variables (although automated, the templates allow for a high level of personalization using simple variables);
  • (Optionally) Multi-Lingual (businesses can pre-design the same message in multiple languages to connect with users in different countries).

The template messages are the foundation for any WhatsApp business automation paths you decide to undertake. They can function as stand-alone communications or be tied to an automated chatbot sequence. 

To learn more about creating the kind of high-quality templates that get approved, check out our guide below.

Chatbots

After you have your opt-in strategy in place and templates approved, you can take WhatsApp automation to the next level—chatbots. 

WhatsApp chatbots are among the most beloved and powerful perks of the API. They allow you to turn the simple notification templates into engaging message flow. They allow you to easily share information as well as collect user data to further personalize their journey. Thanks to many BSP providers offering no-code or low-code bot-building services, they are not that difficult or costly to implement. 

You can create a chatbot using artificial intelligence, rule-based mechanics, or a combination of the two. Which one is more suitable depends highly on your use case. Rule-based chatbots are often equally if not even more effective thanks to their straightforward structure. 

To learn more about building chatbots and designing conversation flows for WhatsApp, have a look at the guides listed below. 

How to Leverage WhatsApp Automation across Departments

We discussed the flexibility of the WhatsApp business automation platform to serve a multitude of industries. The same flexibility applies to leveraging the API across the different departments within your organization.

Marketing

Marketing automation is perhaps the most rapidly changing business domain. Each year brings along new trends, technologies, and tactics to reach and engage your target audiences. 

The usage of WhatsApp for business is still in its infancy. Thus, the messaging app offers a new scarcely populated channel marketers can use to capture, engage and nurture leads—all in an environment that the end-user trusts and feels comfortable with. 

All in all, WhatsApp marketing is gaining relevance and pushing social media and email marketing from the spotlight.

To learn more about impactful ways to use WhatsApp for marketing—such as newsletters, contests, or click-to-WhatsApp ads—or about how to pick the best WhatsApp automation tool, click to read the article below!

Sales

Whether your business sells to other businesses or end-consumers, WhatsApp business automation offers a plethora of possibilities to automate and personalize your sales process and strategy. 

WhatsApp’s large and active user base ensures your leads and customers check the channel regularly and can do so on the go and asynchronously. This gives the WhatsApp business platform a significant upper hand compared to phone or email.

To learn more about leveraging WhatsApp in sales check out the resources below. 

Customer Support

Customer service and support use case hardly needs an introduction. The benefits are easy to see without having to do much digging. It’s a great channel to automatically answer frequently ask questions as well as provide live agent support. 

Curious about use cases and examples? Check out the in-depth customer support use case analysis below. 

Internal Communication

When we talk about WhatsApp business automation, it’s often focused on facilitating and improving communication with customers. However, the efficiency of WhatsApp for business can bring to the table goes beyond customer-facing departments. Businesses can equally benefit from using the solution to manage and streamline internal processes and employee communications. 

Check out the many ways you can leverage WhatsApp to improve employee experience below.

WhatsApp Led Growth

So far, we have addressed all the technicalities of activating and launching your WhatsApp business channel. But what about it as a long-term strategy?

Will messaging stay long enough to change the business-customer communication status quo?

The truth is, little by little, the arrival of smartphones has normalized messaging as an acceptable and even preferable form of communication in both personal and business contexts. Although many businesses are starting to leverage the channel, the adoption gap between consumers and companies is still vast.

mesaging adoption gap

That is, except China. In China, the messaging app WeChat triggered a full-scale business revolution that usually accompanies the invention and full adoption of a new channel.

Will WhatsApp do the same for the west? Should you hop on that train while it's still half empty?

Certainly.

Though, the more important question is how your company can leverage WhatsApp as a new channel in a strategic and impactful way.

Landbot's CEO, Jiaqi Pan, coined the term "WhatsApp Led Growth" (WLG). This tactical concept encompasses all the possible ways companies can leverage WhatsApp as the core channel to acquire, engage, and monetize customers and ultimately even build new business models on top of WhatsApp.

In his recent article, he analysis the successful case of WeChat and introduces the WhatsApp Led Growth strategy as the disruptive element that has already taken root. To learn more about this paradigm shift and how you can employ it for your profit, check out the WLG article below.

Let’s Wrap it Up!

WhatsApp business automation has bypassed the status of an attractive but questionable trend. The numerous case studies and success stories speak for themselves, bringing the notion of messaging economy front and center.

Messaging communication is the future of business communication and WhatsApp with its 2 billion monthly active users is the locomotive leading the train of progress. 

Hop on before it gets too crowded on board!

Barbora Jassova
Editorial Manager, Landbot

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