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Written by
Katy Ratican
1 Nov 2021
5 minutes

WhatsApp Business app vs. WhatsApp Business API: What's the difference and which is right for you?

The differences between the regular WhatsApp Business app and WhatsApp Business API to help you choose the right one for your business
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With more than two billion active users with WhatsApp phone numbers, it’s the undisputed leader of messaging platforms. With WhatsApp Business, the platform provides small and medium-sized businesses an opportunity to engage with users. But which one should you choose between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API?

WhatsApp Business app vs. WhatsApp Business API

The two versions have different capabilities and features. They’re intended for two different sets of businesses. When you’ve to choose between them, you’ll need to keep three factors in mind:

  1. The size of your business

  2. The number of people in your business who would need access to the app

  3. The complexity of your interactions

With these three parameters, let’s understand who the WhatsApp Business app is designed for:

WhatsApp Business is for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to have direct, one-to-one conversations with their customers.

It’s free, easy to download and you can get started in minutes. All it needs is for you to have a separate phone number that you haven’t previously used on the app. Then, you’ll have to set up your profile and verify your business.

Now let’s see who WhatsApp Business API is designed for:

WhatsApp Business API is designed for medium-sized and large companies that handle a huge number of customer interactions across channels. These are companies looking to automate those conversations and acquire customers through integrations with other platforms.

You can’t download WhatsApp Business API directly and will have to go through one of the approved Business Solution Providers of WhatsApp. It’s not a free service, but you won’t be paying WhatsApp directly; you’ll pay the solution provider who in turn will pay WhatsApp.

So, what’s the fundamental difference between WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API? Here’s a simple analysis:

  • WhatsApp Business is for communicating directly with a limited number of customers

  • WhatsApp Business API is for comprehensive relationship management of a large number of customers

To make it easier for you to choose, let’s understand the benefits of each platform.

Features of WhatsApp Business

Real-time response: You can immediately respond to a customer’s query and provide a resolution. They don’t have to email you and wait for hours or days.

Mobile-first interaction: Since it’s through mobile phones, your customers will immediately see it, which increases the chances of conversion.

Customised communication: You can have direct and personalised communication with customers, something that will hugely benefit local businesses.

Higher reach: A customer doesn’t have to go to your website or follow you on social media to know about products or services. All they have to do is send you a message.

Improved credibility: It makes you credible and reliable when customers know that they’re communicating with a verified business.

Is the WhatsApp Business app the right one for you?

WhatsApp Business is designed for the needs of small businesses. You don’t need any technical expertise to download and use it. It’s like using the regular version of WhatsApp. The only difference is that you now have a dedicated channel to talk to your customers.

For example, if you offer dog grooming services, your customers would now be able to know more about your services, schedule appointments, seek rates and leave reviews through their WhatsApp phone number. You would also be able to offer them promotional discounts.

Your primary purpose here is communication and not a detailed analysis.

Features of WhatsApp Business API

Automated responses: Your customers will get immediate and automated responses to their queries without anyone having to manually type them out.

Customer relationship management: With chatbots and automated conversational flows, you can let customers schedule appointments, find your location, request refunds etc.

Lead generation: By setting up chatbots and conversational flows, you can identify and convert high-quality leads.

Human interaction: If a customer’s query is complex, you can direct it to a human for a better resolution.

Multiple users: With WhatsApp Business, you can only have one user access the platform (although you can allow one team member to access it through their mobile phone and another to use it via their desktop). But WhatsApp Business API lets you give access to several team members (link to “How to use WhatsApp Business with multiple users”).

Is WhatsApp Business API the right one for you?

If you’ve got a large number of customers and are looking to constantly acquire more, WhatsApp Business API is the right one for you. For example, if you run an e-commerce business or a fast-food chain, your customer engagement will have to be on multiple fronts.

You might need to notify them of new products, their orders, delivery status, order refunds, cancellations etc. You would also need to automate almost all of these and would need different team members to handle them.

In such instances, WhatsApp Business API should be your communication tool.

Using a second-line app alongside WhatsApp Business

No matter which one you choose, you would need a separate number to activate it. If you were to get a second-line app, you would be able to get a second number exclusively for business. You’ll be able to receive calls and texts on this number and use it for WhatsApp Business.

Having a second phone number is the most effective way to separate your work and personal life. It’s also extremely cost-effective, user-friendly and easy to install without having to buy a new device.

👉 Check out our guide using a Chalkboard number with WhatsApp Business.

In short

Most business owners who are new to WhatsApp Business may not know that there are two versions of the app. The versions are meant for different business uses and managers should be aware of the differences before activating their WhatsApp phone numbers and interacting with customers.

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