WhatsApp Chatbot vs. Native Mobile App: What's Better for Your Business?

Illustrator: Claude Melo
whatsapp chatbot vs mobile app

Ever since the life-changing launch of the first iPhone, businesses have been racing to connect with their potential and existing customers on mobiles—that little device that takes up three hours of our day on average

All in the spirit of be-where-your-customers-are, many companies invested in creating their very own mobile app.

“Download our app!” became a chanted mantra for many a brand.

However, while mobile phones are ever more integrated into our daily experiences, the same can’t be said for the millions of apps out there. And if you want to argue that the app downloads worldwide just keep growing—let me stop you right there! 

You are not wrong, BUT getting a user to download your app is just a very tiny step up a very very high mountain. Did you know that an overwhelming 71% of app users churn within the first 90 days of downloading an app? And, even if you are lucky to survive the carnage, you can still fall into the abyss of oblivion—an average person interacts with 9 phone apps/day and 30 apps/month. So, if your usual smartphone owner has around 80 apps, it means 62% of them don’t get to see the light of day every month. In fact, 25% of smartphone apps are used only ONE TIME after download, and then never again!

Does that mean you should give up on trying to be where your customers are?


Though, there are other ways to go about it. You don’t need your own mobile app to stay on top of the mind of your client base. The secret is weaseling your way into the apps they already use daily—that is the type of apps no one seems to be able to live without—instant messaging apps. 

Namely, WhatsApp. 

In this article, I dive into nine very compelling reasons why a WhatsApp chatbot has a winning advantage over developing a native mobile app as means to business growth.

Let’s get down to it. 

1. Native Mobile App Development is Costly

First and foremost, let's talk about costs. 

While having a native mobile app gives you the stage and presence you seek, the resources you have to pour into it often outweigh the benefits—or at least make the wait on the return on investment a rather long one. According to market estimates, creating a simple app can cost you over $70,000. However, this cost is not limited; it depends on the types of applications you create and the app development agency you choose for your project.

That’s not a small decision to make. 

On the other hand, using a WhatsApp chatbot enables you to deliver high value at a fraction of the cost. Being on WhatsApp means you don’t have to worry about app updates. It’s also free to apply for and access the WhatsApp Business API. WhatsApp only charges you for automated template messages (notifications), sent to your client base without prompt. The conversations that occur within 24 hours of that notification or the last user prompt are free. 

So, all you need to focus on is creating the WhatsApp chatbot. Thanks to no-code and low-code solutions like Landbot, you are able to avoid most of the heavy programming costs associated with app development. While most of these solutions mean committing to a recurring subscription fee, the creation of the bot or changes to it can be easily handled since the no-code interface makes the chatbot easy to understand and control. 

The high cost of developing an app is daunting also because many businesses go into the project without guarantees that it will work. So, if you don’t want to depend on a third-party app for communication forever, you can leverage the WhatsApp chatbot in a trial stage to test your proof of concept. Once you are sure that it works, you can invest your resources into app development more strategically. 

2. In a Rush? Take a Shortcut with WhatsApp Chatbots

Cost is not the only resource mobile app development likes to gobble up like there is no tomorrow. Building an app from scratch is significantly time-consuming and can take from 3 to 10+ months depending on the complexity of the project. 

On the other hand, the low-code solutions enable you to have even a complex WhatsApp chatbot up and running in a matter of weeks. If it’s a simple project, like a focused marketing campaign or a quiz bot, it can even be done in a day

3. Forget Worrying about Installations, App & Software Updates

Following the time-saving thread of thought, opting for a WhatsApp bot instead of a native mobile app virtually saves you a heap of stress. Owning and managing a mobile app long terms involves:

  • Waiting for the app store to publish your app updates
  • Waiting for users to bother to install that update (if ever)
  • Dealing with operating system updates that can affect the functioning of your app
  • Optimizing the app design every time a new phone model comes out (with different screen specs)
  • etc.

WhatsApp chatbot knocks all these issues off the table. 

Whatever changes you decide to make, they take place immediately, without having to wait for your app to be approved or for the users to approve the update installation. It gives you the flexibility and responsiveness customers today value so highly. 

4. Say Goodbye to App Market Bureaucracy

Developing a native app is one thing. Getting it approved, published, correctly displayed, and visible in the store is a whole other thing. Both Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store have their own set of rules, requirements, and policies you need to keep up with and follow to the dot to avoid being blocked or taken down. To put it simply, native app development and hassling never ever stop. There’s always a new policy or update or tweak necessary. 

With a WhatsApp bot, all that burden rests on the shoulders of the popular messaging app. But unlike yours, WhatsApp’s shoulders are mighty and much better equipped to deal with all that drama than your business—no matter how big or small. 

5. Your Audience already has WhatsApp

The advantages of a WhatsApp chatbot over a native app don’t stop at the coding and bureaucracy. 

When you create a native app, you are still facing the ordeal of getting users to download the app, and keeping your fingers crossed they will enable notifications. Plus, you will likely have to sweeten the deal with an incentive. And even having done everything perfectly, your app is still likely to fall victim to the unfavorable stats mentioned at the beginning of this article. 

However, WhatsApp already has a strong active user base. In fact, it’s the most popular messaging app in the world boasting incredible 2 billion monthly active users (Statista)—that’s over 25% of the world population. 

Moreover, WhatsApp wins the top messaging app spot in the majority of the countries worldwide.  

Investing in a WhatsApp chatbot means removing roadblocks from the customer experience, placing you right in the center of their comfort zone. 

6. Your Audience Might have Poor Connectivity

If you are based in a developed country or a big city, it’s easy to forget great internet connection or coverage is not a given. There are many countries and areas within countries around the world where a mobile app or even a website takes ages to load. Hence, even if your customers do download your app, it might be a user experience nightmare through no fault of your own. 

Another issue? Many users even if they live in an area with great coverage, limit which apps can use their mobile data. Hence many non-essentials get blocked while they are up and about limiting your capacity to interact with your audience in real-time. 

Do you know which apps never ever get blocked? Maps, weather, and yes, messaging apps.

Take, for instance, Stars of Africa, a football academy that aims to develop young talent by providing players with quality skill instruction and coaching. Many of their potential students come from poor or remote areas. Using a WhatsApp chatbot allowed them to communicate with their target audience in real-time and thus increase trial attendance by 70% and overall revenue from trials by 60%!

whatsapp chatbot reach

Sometimes, the simplest solution is indeed the best one.  

7. Works for Internal & External Use Cases Alike

Now let's talk about the application. 

WhatsApp chatbot is also a more sensible choice across a variety of use cases. Internally, WhatsApp can help you communicate with workers or students without wasting time “onboarding” them onto your app. Everybody has WhatsApp and everybody knows how it works. There are no surprises.

For example, Convosight, a community management platform that helps community creators generate sustainable income from their communities, used WhatsApp to automate their campaign operations which resulted in a 300% increase in operational efficiency—they quadrupled campaign operations without adding additional headcounts. 

External use cases can be as straightforward and beneficial, too. Sure, the users must complete a WhatsApp opt-in to allow you to interact with them, but it’s a question of clicking on a button or scanning a QR code. No hassling with downloads or permissions and settings is necessary.  

8. One Focused Use Case is all You Need?

Sometimes, brands want to connect with their audience on mobile but developing the app is just way too much work and investment for the small or time-limited use case they have in mind. 

Once again WhatsApp chatbot comes to the rescue. The fact you can create a messaging bot quickly and low-cost makes it a perfect candidate for small, targeted use cases such as seasonal campaigns and contests or extremely specific situations. 

​​One such specific use case comes from Montevideo in Uruguay. The city created an automated WhatsApp channel for residents to report overflowing trash cans. All you need to do is send a snapshot and location on WhatsApp and the Operations Center will take care of the problem, notifying you once the deed is done. In the first 4 months, the Center received 58.000 reports which helped to create a cleaner city for all. 

In this case, creating an app would be a waste of money as people would be unlikely to download it just to report these issues. Opting for popular WhatsApp, the effort on part of the locals is minimal. 

While WhatsApp communication is limited comparing all the different options a native app could offer, it wins the battle with a winning punch of functionality. It gets the job done quickly and efficiently. 

9. When Was the Last time You Deleted a Contact?


That’s probably right. 

However, I bet you can remember deleting an app or blocking all possible notifications coming from one. 

Once a user opts into your communication channel, you are likely to stay among the contacts for a very long time. So, even if the customer doesn’t reach out, you can always send out a short message to “reignite the passion” with a special offer, exciting content, product restock update, or an invitation n to submit a review. 


So, if a WhatsApp chatbot and a native app found themselves in a boxing ring, the messaging assistant is likely to get in a few solid hits. 

This is not to say native apps for businesses are becoming irrelevant altogether. They still have their place and value in certain scenarios. 

WhatsApp chatbot is just a faster and more cost-efficient way to establish a real-time connection with your audiences or, at the very least, test your theory before you invest the big bucks.