Companies across a variety of industries adopt chat because of its versatility, as well as its potential to improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs.
Tasks such as customer support, sales, marketing, recruiting, order updates and issue resolution can all be completed over chat, and sometimes without human intervention as well.
Chatbots have gained immense popularity in recent years, with companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Rogers Wireless, and Coca-Cola reporting massive savings in manpower and costs after adopting them. Customers have repeatedly shown that they are more willing to talk to businesses via chat. Globally, the market for chatbots was valued at a whopping $190 million in 2016.
By 2024, the market is projected to reach a valuation of $994 million. Creating and managing chat-based experiences has also become simpler as messaging platforms open up APIs. This allows companies like WhatsApp Business API to develop tools that businesses can use to communicate with customers on messaging channels at scale.
A large part of this increased acceptance comes from the fact that major players in the technology industry have made huge strides in artificial intelligence and natural language processing of late. With the help of third-party AI tools such as IBM’s Watson, for example, chatbots can now understand the intent of a user better than ever before. This allows for better and more natural interactions with chatbots and positive overall experience.
U.S. Chatbot Market by Vertical, 2014 – 2025
The future of consumer- business relationships
If your business has never considered using a messaging application to interact with your customers, here
are some compelling reasons why you should consider adopting a conversational messaging strategy:
Chat is convenient: According to a survey conducted in eight countries by Facebook IQ, the social media company’s research arm, over a third of all users believe that their messaging has increased since 2015. In another research study, about half of all surveyed individuals said that chat had replaced all other forms of communication for them. These insights tell us that most people around the world prefer the casual and personal nature of chat applications.
Instantaneous response times: Traditional forms of customer support such as voice calls and emails require an overwhelming amount of human resources, depending on the size of the business. Since representatives can only interact with one customer at a time, new callers are typically placed in a long waiting queue, which prolongs their experience. Chat, on the other hand, allows your clients to receive an immediate response from a bot, after which they can be forwarded to a support agent if required.
Technology company IBM concluded that its automated chat solution could resolve user queries 99 percent faster than a human support representative, going from 38 hours to a mere 5.4 minutes. Even without automation, a single support representative can serve multiple customers via chat simultaneously.
Reduced overhead: Businesses are increasingly offering customer service via messaging apps because of another key factor-cost. According to statistics published by Chatbots Magazine, companies that moved simple customer inquiries to virtual agents and chatbots found that they were saving 30 percent compared to other forms of support. IBM, meanwhile, found that per- query costs dropped from $15-200 to $1 with chatbots. A large part of this reduction can be attributed to reduced labor costs. Running a phone helpline of any scale often requires companies to contract a third-party company, normally a BPO call center operator, at a much higher rate.
Increased brand value: In another study conducted by Facebook, 53 percent of all surveyed participants said they were more likely to shop with a business that they could also chat with.
Flower delivery startup 1-800-Flowers saw its chat-based ordering system become hugely popular within the first few weeks of its launch on Facebook Messenger. According to a feature by Digiday on the company, 70 percent of all new orders came from brand new customers and were from a significantly younger demographic than existing clientele. The company’s 2017 first-quarter results showed total revenues had increased 6.3 percent to $165.8 million. Ironically, the company had laid its entire foundation on the premise of ordering flowers via a phone call but was instead enjoying more success with chat.
WA for Business Overview
With over a billion daily active users, WA Messenger is one of the most popular communication apps in the world.
While the app’s focus has always been on personal and private conversations between individuals, WA recently unveiled a host of new tools that help consumers connect with businesses directly from within the messaging platform.
With WA for Business, businesses can not only distinguish their profile from that of a user but also gain access to advanced tools related to chat management, message automation, and analytics.
As a business owner, having an official presence on a major chat application can improve customer satisfaction and engagement. Since users interact with you within the WA chat environment that is already familiar to them, they are more likely to approach you. While the same can be said for other chat apps too, WA is easily the most popular one out there.
WA for Business vs WhatsApp Business API
WA offers two distinct solutions for businesses, depending on the scale and size of their organization.
WA Business App: For small to medium businesses
For businesses that have limited customer interaction, WA offers its Business app as a free download on the Android and iOS app stores. While the business app is similar to the consumer-facing Messenger application in a lot of ways, it also offers additional features for customer management such as automated replies, messaging insights, and quick replies. Business owners can also customize their profile to a greater degree to include additional information such as a physical location, description, website, and email address.
The WA Business App requires a human to manage each chat manually. Therefore, the solution works best for businesses where only a handful of customers are addressed on any given day. A retail shop, restaurant, or boutique store are some small- scale businesses that would be able to utilize this solution effectively.
The WA Business App offers additional functionality in comparison to the end-user Messenger application. However, it is not meant for larger companies that routinely receive a large number of messages or in cases where complete automation may be required.
WhatsApp Business API: For large enterprises
For larger enterprises, WA offers a more powerful and robust solution in the form of its Business API. However, unlike the Business App, this solution is still invite-only, with WA selectively approving companies based on their declared use cases for the API. We will explore how businesses can apply for access to the WhatsApp Business API in the next section of this guide.
A few examples of established brands that are already using the WhatsApp Business API can be found on this page. The list includes industry leaders such as Uber, Booking.com, Singapore Airlines as well as region-specific firms like Coppel and Melia Hotels.
How to qualify for WA Business
As explained previously, if you run a small or medium-sized business, you can download the WA Business App right away for free. Notably, however, it is only available on Android and iOS mobile platforms, with no desktop solution available yet. Signing up for an account also requires your business to have a phone number capable of receiving SMS or voice calls.
Before we move onto the more powerful WhatsApp Business API solution for larger enterprise companies, let’s take a cursory look at what smaller organizations can do using the app.
WA Business App
When you open the WA Business App for the first time, you will be greeted with a familiar registration process.
Instead of your personal name and profile picture, however, you will be asked for business-specific information. This will later be displayed on your profile for anyone to see.
The business app allows you to set your business’ location, category, description, opening hours, email address, and up to two websites. Having this information easily accessible from within the app will not only improve your business’ visibility to customers but will also help answer some of the most commonly asked questions. Typically, users would either have to contact you or search online to obtain this information.
The rest of the business app is largely indistinguishable from the user-facing WA experience, with the exception of a few additional features. The first is the ability to organize chats or contacts with the help of labels. You can also set up quick replies or message templates to reuse frequent messages with only a few taps. You can also set an away or introductory message to welcome new users.
The bulk of WA Business’ strength lies in its secondary solution, which has been designed with larger-scale enterprises in mind. If you believe that your business’ chat needs are best fulfilled by a more powerful alternative, read on.
WhatsApp Business API
The WhatsApp Business API allows developers to send WhatsApp messages automatically, therefore reducing the need for human input.
The solution can be especially useful for use cases such as answering customer queries, handling common requests, and dispensing user-specific information such as order status or billing details. This reduces the overall load on support teams, freeing them up to handle more complex tasks.
Since the Business API program is currently in Early Access, enterprise owners can only gain access after they fill out an application and are authorized by WA. WhatsAppBusinessAPI is an official WA Solution Provider that specializes in building powerful automation strategies. Likewise, we can help your enterprise build a seamless chat experience, tailor-made for a target audience. In a later section, we will explore how enterprises can apply for access to the WhatsApp Business API.
Once your application has been approved, you can go ahead and create a Business Profile.
This unique entry will be tied to your business’ phone number and showcase the same set
of information as discussed in the previous section. Additionally, you can apply for verification which will allow customers to see a green tick next to your name to indicate that the contact belongs to a verified business.
As a WA Business Solution Provider, WhatsApp Business API will manage the application process for verification on your behalf.
Besides the approval process, the WhatsApp Business API requires enterprises to meet a few additional technical requirements that are outlined here.
In short, your business would need to host an instance of the API client on a local computer with its own independent database in order to access the API. Since chats throughout the WA ecosystem are secured with end-to-end encryption, they cannot provide a hosted solution without doing away with the encryption altogether.
However, if you are working with WhatsApp Business API to gain access to the API, you need not worry about these requirements as we handle them for you seamlessly as part of our out-of-the-box solution.
While this additional technical step increases complexity, it is the only way to ensure message confidentiality between a business and its customers. To learn more about how WA secures chats with end-to-end encryption, read the company’s white paper detailing the subject here.
What the WhatsApp Business API can accomplish
Assuming your company is able to fulfill the necessary business and technical requirements to use the WhatsApp Business API, let’s take a look at a few potential use cases of the platform:
1. Conversational assistance
2. Customer support
3. Rich Notifications
4. Reservations and bookings
5. Live order status and tracking 6. Assisted shopping
7. Personalized updates
8. Notifications, payment updates and more
Chatbots can be extremely versatile and useful on WA as they can be pre-programmed to respond to commonly asked customer questions. This feature lets customers receive instantaneous and automated replies.
The business impact of implementing a chatbot experience with the API means you can save employee time and cut costs. In many cases, the experience for the user will be as seamless as communicating with a human.
Marriott International, considered to be the world’s largest hotel chain, found that using intelligent chatbots and human agents to cater to customers improved guest satisfaction by a significant amount. The company was quoted as saying, “When a guest feels that there is a real person on the other end of the conversation, it quickly results in conversions. The hotel bot also frees up time for employees to engage more with guests once they have arrived at the hotel and significantly reduces reception workload.” To promote trust with customers, chatbots need to be able to transition to a live support agent seamlessly. Marriott addressed this topic as well, stating, “We truly believe the machine experience is best paired with a human. They [guests] can always signify if they want to speak to a real person. If the chatbot can’t answer a question, it can route to one of our associates.”
A chatbot can also be used to ask the customer for feedback following an interaction with support. Unlike a web form that can only be accessed via a web browser, users will be able to rate and comment on their experience from within WA. Feedback can be collected and analyzed to ensure that the service is delivering positive user experience.
As well as offering conversational assistance with common customers queries, the WhatsApp Business API can also be used to solve customer grievances.
Chatbots can be designed to not only create and update support tickets but also have rich and meaningful conversations with your customers. Enterprises can also leverage decision trees and artificial intelligence technologies to solve grievances on the spot.
It’s important that a human representative is always available to jump into a conversation in the event that the customer wishes to speak with a person. After all, sometimes everyone needs a human touch. Not having a dedicated representative to quickly join a conversation could result in frustrating user experience. A human support agent should always be available if the customer’s query can either not be identified or answered adequately.
Unlike SMS, which was considered to be the de facto notification standard across several industries, WA lets users send and receive messages that contain media content, including images, documents, audio clips, and even emojis. Support for these types of files naturally extends to messages sent from business accounts as well.
As a result, companies can use the WhatsApp Business API to inform users of a new update in a more visual and appealing way. A travel operator, for instance, can send users a WA message with their flight’s boarding pass immediately after a successful booking. While boarding the flight, users can easily access the boarding pass, even in the absence of internet or cellular connection.
With the WhatsApp Business API, companies can also provide users with real-time flight updates. Information about changes in schedule, delays, and cancellations can be difficult to relay to all passengers simultaneously. With WA’s API solution, dispatching these updates is possible at scale. As the API offers information on the delivery and read status of these messages, businesses can follow up through a separate communication channel if the message was reported to be undelivered.
Reservations and bookings
Companies can leverage the WhatsApp Business API to automate a significant part of the traditional reservation or booking flow.
A typical restaurant reservation, for instance, requires very little information. In this scenario, a conversational chatbot can ask potential customers for their name, preferred date and time, and party size. As long as the client does not have specific requirements that need to be addressed manually, the entire process can be completed without any human oversight.
Consumers, on the other hand, get the opportunity to complete the process on their own terms and relatively quickly. Confirming a reservation would likely take longer via telephone since a significant portion of that time can be spent connecting with someone on the other end. Chat interactions via WA guarantee 24×7 uptime.
Live order status and tracking
With rich media support, businesses can send customers messages that include locations, PDFs, and more using the API.
This can be especially handy to relay the current status of an order. Furthermore, WA has native support for live location updates, which means that you can deliver streaming GPS data.
Several companies, including food delivery firms and logistics operators, already offer live GPS tracking on their respective platforms. Offering GPS data via WA instead gives customers the ability to track their orders from an app they already use daily.
If your business offers a large catalog of items on sale, an employee can help customers make purchase decisions and even give personalized recommendations, based on the customer’s needs and style.
Giving users this service using chatbots can help transform your business from a generic store into a personalized shopping experience that is not too dissimilar from an in-store interaction with an employee.
Additionally, if an item requested by the user is unavailable at the time, a chatbot can recommend an alternative or even send an automated notification whenever the item is ready for purchase again.
Businesses can use the WhatsApp Business API solution to increase user engagement on their platform by providing automated stock or availability updates.
If your company already employs some form of recommendation algorithm, implementing WA updates into the workflow should be a relatively trivial task.
For instance, an e-commerce website can send users product recommendations based on their historical shopping activity or send updates on limited-availability items. Businesses can also analyze which types of notifications tend to attract the most clicks and use the data to fine-tune their recommendation algorithms accordingly.
We will take a look at how Netflix is already delivering personal recommendations through the WhatsApp Business API further along in this guide.
Notifications, payment updates and more
The WhatsApp Business API can be adopted for a plethora of additional use-cases across various verticals.
A utility company, for example, can use the WhatsApp Business API to periodically send customers usage updates and bills as soon as they are generated. On an ecommerce website, payment confirmations, receipts and order shipping updates can be relayed to users automatically.
Understanding how the Business API works
With the release of the Business API, WA has announced that it will continue to hold user privacy and choice in high regard.
Enterprises are encouraged to build high quality chat experiences on the platform that are meaningful to their customers. Providing real value through WhatsApp messages guarantees that customers have a positive overall impression of your brand and the messaging platform itself.
To ensure a high-quality user experience, WA has instructed enterprises to ask users for consent before contacting them on the messaging app. This opt-in can be collected via a plethora of third-party channels, including SMS, a mobile app and the company’s official website. Once a user has agreed to receiving messages from your business, no further action is necessary on their part. To learn more about the process, check out this help topic.
If a user initiates contact with your business account on WA, you have up to 24 hours to reply with a custom message. This is useful for customer support-related use cases where a company representative will need some time to address the users’ needs. For notifications, updates and other types of messages, the Business API allows developers to choose from a set of default and custom templates. These messages offer some level of customization, including context-sensitive terms such as the date, order number, payment and shipping status, etcetera.
Messaging trends for 2020 and beyond
While the existing set of features offered by WA with its Business API already allow companies to create powerful chat experiences for their customers, the company could introduce more interactive tools in the following months or years.
Observing what is happening in other Facebook-owned messaging platforms like Messenger and Instagram, and their publicly announced intent to unify these messaging channels in the future, we may see additional rich elements become available on WA over time. Keep an eye out for WA’s official announcements to know more from the source.
There are some features observed from popular messaging apps which will surely be adopted by all messaging channels over time. Almost all of the use cases above can be improved significantly with rich content support, which we have seen on other popular messaging channels. A custom date picker in the form of a calendar, for instance, could be useful for such things as restaurant reservations and hotel bookings. Custom keyboards, on the other hand, could allow developers to limit input from the user and even create polls or quizzes. As an example, a chatbot requesting user feedback could present the user with numbers between 1 and 10, limiting the amount of input. With this additional functionality, companies can make conversations with customers more efficient and enjoyable.
A few messaging platforms have also rolled out support for in-chat payments. Telegram, for instance, allows developers to build chatbots that send a specially formatted invoice. Users then have the choice of completing the payment with one of their saved cards or default payment apps built into their phone such as Android Pay and Apple Pay. On WeChat, the leading Chinese messaging platform, payment structure is already in place and is well adopted by users, therefore it’s a natural direction that the WA platform could take over time.
How companies are using the WhatsApp Business API
Given that a handful of companies have publicly shared their experience with the WhatsApp Business API, we can analyze how the API has been used so far.
BookMyShow: Delivery of event and movie tickets
BookMyShow, best known for reselling movie and event tickets in India, Indonesia, UAE, Sri Lanka, and West Indies, was one of the first companies to adopt the WhatsApp Business API.
According to media reports from mid-2017, the company had only rolled out the feature to a few users, which was later confirmed to be around 25 percent of the platform’s user base. Customers that book a ticket on the platform receive an immediate confirmation via WA, complete with the booking details, a QR code and an image of the ticket itself. This same information was previously sent to users via email.
The company told media publication YourStory, “WA has definitely become a preferred mode of communication for millions of people in our country and we could identify tremendous value in making it a default ticket confirmation channel.”
BookMyShow takes an additional step to ensure that users without WA access can also receive the notification. “We are not abandoning SMS for multiple reasons. Consumers might not be on a data network when they book their tickets. So we take 60 seconds and observe if we get a delivery report from WA, if not, then we send out an SMS confirmation as a fallback.”
Netflix: Personalized updates and suggestions
Video streaming giant Netflix offers push notifications via WA in select markets. Users are automatically notified of the feature’s availability as a banner on the platform’s homepage.
From there, they have the option to either opt-in or defer the choice for later. Notably, however, Netflix does not offer any form of customer support on WA or any other messaging platform.
According to media reports, the media company uses WA Business for account messages and personalized suggestions on what the customer should watch next. A user that has watched all seasons of a particular show may even be notified whenever a new episode is available to be streamed. Without any official communication on the subject of chatbots, however, it remains to be seen whether or not Netflix will introduce additional features in the future.
Redbus: Travel alerts and conversational assistance
Indian bus ticketing platform Redbus first adopted the WhatsApp Business API in early 2018 to deliver booking notifications and tickets in the form of a PDF attachment.
Over time, the company learned that many customers were replying with questions related to their upcoming trips. Realizing this market demand, Redbus created a chatbot capable of natural language processing to address common queries.
In a blog post, the company further explained how it was using contextual automation to detect user intent. The post read, “If a customer initiates a conversation with us on WA by typing Hi!, we check for possible reasons of this conversation on his transaction history and start the chat by asking a relevant question (eg: Hi Deepak! Did you ping us to know the refund status of your booking that your canceled on 30th April?) instead of the non-contextual static welcome message.”
Beyond these companies, there are dozens of other businesses that have successfully implemented WA Business in one way or another.
How to effectively adopt the WhatsApp Business API for your enterprise
By now, it’s evident that the WhatsApp Business API is an incredibly powerful tool that can be leveraged by businesses of all sizes.
If your support team routinely finds itself in the midst of more volume than it can handle, moving some of your processes to chat
can help alleviate the issue to quite a large extent. Enterprises that correctly adopt the chat paradigm find that the transition can drastically reduce costs, operational overhead and employee workflow.
To that end, here are a couple of guidelines all companies adopting the WhatsApp Business API should follow:
Employ thoughtful automation
To ensure a smooth and positive experience for customers, companies tend to employ modern machine learning techniques to accurately identify the intent of a user. Naturally, there are additional costs associated with implementing these techniques.
In such cases, businesses have two options: contract a third-party AI provider or build a rudimentary system that relies on basic logic. While consulting third parties could result in
a more elegant solution, smaller businesses can skip this in favor of creating a simple decision tree chatbots that can automatically recognize and answer common user queries. At WhatsApp Business API, we can help you get started with a robust automation workflow that works best for your business.
That said, while the WhatsApp Business API offers developers and companies the ability to automate a great deal of their support and sales processes, a human should always be on hand to help if need be.
Chat-based support is beneficial because customers feel more comfortable interacting within a familiar environment. Occasionally introducing the presence of a human can provide an extra level of human support when necessary. Even companies that have successfully implemented chatbots find that their customers prefer to speak with a human representative from time to time. To remedy this, a backend support network should be able to pick up at a moment’s notice. Hotel behemoth Marriott International, for instance, gives guests the ability to request a human support representative at any point right from the chat. We strongly recommend incorporating something similar to your chatbot’s workflow.
Companies should also note that most chatbots cannot simply be created, deployed, and forgotten. The process of optimization based on user feedback, internal testing, and conversions should be consistently managed and maintained to ensure the best possible experience for customers.
Follow a limited rollout strategy
Customers aren’t always patient when a feature does not work as expected, so it is best to have all issues ironed out as early as possible when introducing your business on WA.
The best way to achieve this is by launching the feature in a phased manner. Initially, chat should only be offered as an opt-in feature to a small percentage of the total user base. This way, if something goes wrong, only a handful of customers will be affected and the business’ support channels will not be overwhelmed with complaints.
Most companies realize that opening the floodgates at once is rarely a good idea and, therefore, perform heavy research and testing before letting everyone use a new feature. According to a December 2017 report, Netflix began offering users personalized account messages and suggestions through WA as part of a trial program in India. It was not until July 2018 that the feature was rolled out on a much wider scale to Netflix users outside South Asia.
For chat processes that do not involve much automation, businesses should ensure that their customer service staff are trained well in advance. This is especially important during the trial period when the company may face sudden influxes of support requests.
If your business has never offered text or chat- based support prior to WA, the phased rollout strategy will also allow you to gauge how receptive customers are to the solution. Depending on the results and feedback, you can fine-tune certain parameters and decide how much time and money should be allocated to future development.
How to get access to the WhatsApp Business API
Even though WA publicly unveiled its Business platform in the month of August 2018, companies still cannot use the feature or the API without explicit approval from the company.
WA is taking a more hands-on approach with its business offerings to ensure that its users do not have a negative experience with the brand. Companies looking to apply for access can apply with their WA Business Solution Provider.
Applying for the WhatsApp Business API
WA has authorized a handful of third-party vendors, including WhatsApp Business API, to act as service providers for its Business API solution.
These vendors help you create and deploy your chat infrastructure with relative ease and serve as a liaison between WA. Some even use modern technologies such as artificial intelligence and complex decision trees so that developers can easily and effectively automate conversations.
Select service providers also allow you to connect your business’ existing software stack to their platform. This integration is especially useful if your business already offers robust customer support with existing tools. Employees can continue to perform operations related to analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), and reporting in the same manner as before. Companies that are interested in managing chat channels separately from their own CRM system can also use WhatsApp Business API’s panel, which simplifies the workflow for human support agents.