Though WhatsApp launched Business in 2018, offering SMEs a chance to integrate with the app’s API , WhatsApp also controls who gets in. As we’ve discussed in our previous story, once a business signs up for API integration, WhatsApp vets the business with its business solution partner, which works with enterprises.
Once the API request is approved, WhatsApp then charges companies Rs 0.30 (US$ 0.0040) per message sent, according to a rate card shared by Facebook. This is 3X higher than SMS charges, notes Aniketh Jain, chief revenue officer at Kaleyra, a technology solution company which does API integration. Nevermind that a message sent over regular WhatsApp is completely free in India.
API-integrated companies are usually charged for sending template messages and follow a template mentioned in WhatsApp’s template policy. Such messages include sharing tickets, booking confirmation, and purchase receipts.
Free for India
WhatsApp, launched as a personal messaging app, started off by being a freemium model. The first year of usage would be free and then users would have to pay US$1 to access the service. The company made the app completely free of charge without showing ads in India, in 2014, stating lack of debit or credit card penetration as the reason.
In 2019, there were at least 700 companies with WhatsApp’s API in India, Jain confirmed.
Companies needn’t shell out a dime if they’re responding to a customer query though. Usually, a bot is installed to reply to general queries sent by the customer. “This function is active for 24 hours. If a customer raises a query about some product and then you are responding then no money is charged,” said Jain.
“Every company has a different need. Not everyone sends a lot of template messages. Financial service company Zerodha has a nimble structure. They send more text messages than template messages on WhatsApp. While Licious sends everything over WhatsApp. From order confirmation message to payment received. It comes down to the kind of customer experience you want to give your users,” said Jain.
The Basics of Embodying WhatsApp Business Accounts
There’s an odd caveat here. Most business interaction that takes place on WhatsApp Business eventually lands up on regular WhatsApp.
Unlike shopping on Facebook or e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart, where a customer can seamlessly pick what they’re looking for from a catalogue, place an order, pay, and just wait for delivery, WhatsApp adds a few more steps.
The customer goes to the store’s broadcast group,
is connected to a store manager,
who then takes the customer through the catalogue,
the manager does a WhatsApp video call through regular WhatsApp for a virtual display of products,
the custom chooses an item,
and then when everything is finalised, the customer is directed to a different app to pay.
Why? Because WhatsApp Pay is still stuck in regulatory limbo.
So, unsurprisingly, even businesses that use WhatsApp Business are using regular WhatsApp for business. Especially during Covid.