WhatsApp Business Platform (API) vs the WhatsApp Business App: Differences & the Better Choice

Discover the differences between WhatsApp Business App and Platform (API) and which one is a better choice for your business.

WhatsApp Business Platform (API) vs the WhatsApp Business App: Differences & the Better Choice

As many readers may be new to the conversational commerce world, today’s issue will help clarify the differences between two different WhatsApp Business products, the WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business Platform (API), and help you understand which one is more suitable for you.

Let’s dive right in.

What is the WhatsApp Business Platform? (All WhatsApp Business APIs)

The WhatsApp Business Platform is the bigger sibling in the WhatsApp business family, and consists of three different APIs from Meta. It's designed for businesses that are growing fast and need to chat with lots of customers, not just a handful. Think of it as your own customer service powerhouse that works around the clock.

This platform is not just any ordinary tool; there’s two APIs that let WhatsApp Business Solution Providers (BSPs) help you integrate WhatsApp into your business's communication channels. 

  • The WhatsApp Cloud API is hosted by Meta, offering a better experience for BSPs. It offers a throughput of up to 500 messages per second and is a cost-effective solution since there are no extra server maintenance fees, only Meta's conversation-based pricing. (That’s why Hoola uses Cloud)
  • The On-Premises API is to keep everything under one roof and hosted through Business Solution Providers (BSPs). It allows companies to manage their own servers, which is sometimes a need for larger enterprises with specific data security and privacy requirements. On the flip side, it involves setup costs and maintenance, and offers a capacity to send up to 70 text messages per second for single connections and 250 for multi-connect setups.

Then, regardless of this, you will have to manage your business profile:

  • The Business Management API is the administrative command center, handling your WhatsApp Business Account and enabling the creation and management of message templates. This API ensures your brand's voice remains consistent and professional across all customer interactions, making it an essential tool for maintaining the quality of your customer service.

Let's say you run an online store that sells gadgets. Black Friday rolls around, and you're swamped with questions about deals, shipping, and more. Here's where the WhatsApp Business Platform shines. It can handle all those queries at once, automatically send out shipping updates, and make sure no customer feels left out. It's perfect for when your business is picking up speed and every message counts.

WhatsApp Business Platform in short:

  • Audience: Medium/large size businesses or SMBs looking to scale
  • Platform: UI provided by WhatsApp Business Solution on API (like Hoola)
  • Number of Users: Unlimited (or depending on BSP)
  • Features (Hoola’s example):
    WhatsApp Business profile
    Sync product catalog from Shopify
    Send broadcast messages
    Multichannel inbox (Email, live chat)
    Automated messages (unlimited, including chatbots)
    Official & Verified Business Account (Green tick)
    Interactive messages: Links, quick-reply buttons, coupon codes, phone & lists
  • Integrations: Shopify, HubSpot, WooCommerce, Salesforce, anything…
Integrations and automations on the WhatsApp Business Platform.
Integrations and automations on the WhatsApp API

What is the WhatsApp Business App?

Think of the WhatsApp Business App as a handy tool for small shops, cafes, and local service providers. It's easy to use and helps you keep in touch with your customers directly from your phone or computer.

Here's what you get with the WhatsApp Business App: a business profile to tell customers about your shop, a catalog to show off your goods, automated messages for quick replies, and message sorting to keep everything organized. It's straightforward, without any fuss.

Imagine you sell handmade soaps. A customer messages to ask about scents. You quickly send them your catalog through the app, they pick what they like, and you're all set for an order. It's about making those customer conversations smooth and personal, just like in your store.

WhatsApp Business App in short:

  • Audience: Small/medium size businesses and entrepreneurs
  • Platform: App or browser
  • Number of users: One phone, up to 4 linked devices
  • Features:
    Business profile (without green tick)
    Product catalog
    Broadcast messages (limited to one message)
    Out-of-office messages
    Chat labels
    Group chats (can both create and participate in)
    Voice/video calls
    No interactive messages
  • Integrations: Not supported
The WhatsApp Business App (courtesy of WhatsApp).
The WhatsApp Business App (courtesy of WhatsApp)

Main differences between the WhatsApp Business App and Business Platform

The main difference between the WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business Platform lies in their capacity to scale with your business needs. The WhatsApp Business App is fantastic for the smaller scale, providing a straightforward and intuitive way to connect with customers. The Business Platform is a powerhouse, customized by BSPs and designed for medium to large businesses that require a robust system to handle high volumes of customer interactions.

Whether it's a bustling holiday sale or a new product launch, this platform ensures your business stays connected with every customer. Now, let's explore the main differences between the WhatsApp Business App and the Business API, and see which one aligns with your business needs:

  • Audience: Business App is ideal for very small businesses managing modest conversations, while the Business Platform suits larger businesses needing advanced features and scalability.
  • Broadcast capabilities: Business App limits broadcasts to 256 contacts; recipients must save your number. The Business Platform has no broadcast limit and doesn't require number saving, ensuring consent with double opt-ins for WhatsApp marketing.
  • Team collaboration: Business App supports one main user with extra access via WhatsApp Web. The Business Platform allows multiple users and shared inbox features through partners, enhancing teamwork.
  • Automation and interaction: Business App provides basic automated greetings. Business Platform supports advanced automation, including chatbots and custom responses like order updates.
  • Customization and integration: Business App offers basic customization without API access. Business Platform provides extensive customization and integration with CRM systems, Shopsystems, and more.
  • Verification and trust: Business App doesn't support the green verification tick. Business Platform offers it, enhancing customer trust.
  • Messaging features: Business App has simple messaging with limited button options. Business Platform offers advanced messaging, including button messages, links, phone buttons, coupon codes, and lists.
  • Pricing: Business App is free. Business Platform uses a per-conversation cost model, significant for high-volume interactions.

So, we’ve seen the main differences between the WhatsApp Business App and Platform, now let’s take a quick look at the little extras that didn't quite make the top of the list. The WhatsApp Business Platform is in general better tailored for larger businesses, which you can see by how Meta made their solution more lean, and removing functions like voice & video calls, and WhatsApp Groups. Another point is that switching from the Business App to the Platform is possible, while vice versa isn’t. And for complete GDPR-compliance, there's a 24-hour support conversation window that opens after a user-initiated inbound message. These bits and pieces are not exactly game-changers, and they might just tip the scales when you're deciding which service to go for.

So in short, the WhatsApp Business App is a free mobile application you can easily download from the Apple or Google Store, designed for small businesses to communicate with their customers. It provides basic features such as the ability to send and receive messages, create a business profile, and set up automated messages. However, the app has limitations in terms of automation and customization, like integration with third-party systems.

The WhatsApp Business Platform is an integration from Meta that allows Business Solution Providers to build their own software and UI on top of either the Meta Cloud API or On-Premises API. For example, Hoola:

Hoola's inbox UI

It has more advanced capabilities, as it allows businesses to integrate with their existing CRM systems and automate their communication with customers. Some of the key features of WhatsApp Business API include:

  • Messaging templates: WhatsApp Business API provides businesses with access to messaging templates such as frequently asked questions, order confirmations, and more.
  • Chatbots and automations: With WhatsApp Business API, businesses can create chatbots that can handle customer inquiries and provide 24/7 support.
  • High volume messaging: WhatsApp Business API is designed to handle high volumes of messages, making it a great solution for larger businesses that need to communicate with a large number of customers.
  • Integration with third-party systems: WhatsApp Business API can be integrated with third-party CRM and shop systems.

This solution requires more technical expertise. Indeed, businesses that choose the WhatsApp Business API will need to work with a development team to integrate the API or partner up with a Business Solution Provider (BSP).

Better: Just sign up to Hoola.

Key pros and cons of the WhatsApp Business Platform for Your Business

The WhatsApp Business Platform is a great tool for businesses to connect with their customers. It allows businesses to send notifications, customer support messages, and even process transactions through the app. One of the main benefits of using this service is communicating with customers, as most people already use WhatsApp in their daily lives.

However, there are also some cons to consider before using this service, such as the cost and the potential for spamming. By evaluating both the pros and cons, businesses can determine if WhatsApp Business API is the right choice for their specific needs.

Pros of the WhatsApp Business Platform

  • Wide reach: Most people already use WhatsApp in their daily lives, making it a great way for businesses to connect with their customers.
  • Customer support: The app allows businesses to provide customer support in real-time, which can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Notifications: WhatsApp API can be used to send notifications to customers about their orders, deliveries, and other important updates.
  • Transactions: Businesses can process transactions directly through the app, making it more convenient for customers to make purchases.

Cons of the WhatsApp Business API

  • Cost: WhatsApp Business API is not free and often requires a monthly subscription, which can be expensive for small businesses, but relatively still yield a positive ROI!
  • Compliance: The app has strict policies against spamming, and businesses that violate these policies can face penalties and even account suspension. Fortunately, this can be easily navigated with the right setup and strategies.
  • Features not exactly met: WhatsApp Business API has limited features compared to other messaging apps, which could be a disadvantage for businesses with more complex needs.

In conclusion, you should find a solution that’s good for your business in the short run, but also lets you scale with features in the long run. This is all about improving your general customer experience, without compromising the potential of your team.

Chatting with your customers in real time is getting more and more relevant, as 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Think about it – you get to send quick updates and even handle transactions right where everyone's comfortable, in WhatsApp! It's a game-changer for making your customers happier and your operations smoother. There's of course some cost involved, and we see that as just a part of setting up a solid and professional way to talk to your customers. As a bonus, you can always create a positive ROI using your WhatsApp campaigns. All in the Hoola WhatsApp Business Platform.

How much is the WhatsApp Business Platform?

So, you're getting closer to making your move on the WhatsApp Business Platform for your business and wondering about the WhatsApp business pricing, right? Let's dive into the costs without any confusing terms or hidden fees. With Hoola, you have an actually awesome starting point — with a free trial to play around with the tool, and all of Team Hoola to help you set up your customer support, WhatsApp marketing strategy, and optimize for costs and ROI. See if it's a good fit for your business.

WhatsApp's pricing is all about conversations. Meta doesn't charge by the message but by 24-hour interaction periods, also known as conversation windows. Now, there are four kinds of messages you can have: Marketing, Utility, Authentication, and Service.

Got something to sell or a cart left behind? That's Marketing. Sending order updates or e-receipts? That's Utility. How about those one-time passwords for added security? That's Authentication. And if a customer hits you up with questions or needs help—that's a Service conversation.

The clock starts ticking on the Marketing, Utility, and Authentication chats as soon as you send a template message. For Service ones, it starts when you reply to a customer within 24 hours by opening a new customer service window. The good news? Meta gives you the first 1000 user-initiated conversations per month for free.

As a note from us, we help you simplify this process. Just reach out, on WhatsApp, E-mail or wherever you can find contact information, and we’ll help you out. If you want to try an all-in-one buddy for customer support and marketing, we simplify this process for your business, so you can focus on what you do best—selling your products and keeping customers happy.

Which solution fits my business better - WhatsApp API or Business App?

What factors should businesses consider when deciding which WhatsApp alternative to use? Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Business size and volume of messages: if you’re a small business with a relatively low volume of messages/email from customers, the WhatsApp Business App may be sufficient for your needs. However, if you have or expect a high volume of messages, the WhatsApp Business API may be a better fit, as it allows for more automation and scalability.
  • Required features: Think about the specific features you need to effectively communicate with your customers. If you require more advanced capabilities, then the WhatsApp Business API may be the way to go. However, if you simply need to send basic messages and replies, the WhatsApp Business App may be enough.
  • Cost considerations: While the WhatsApp Business App is free to use, the WhatsApp Business API comes with a cost. Businesses need to consider the costs of the API, including the setup fees and ongoing costs, and decide if it’s worth the investment.

In conclusion, while both the WhatsApp Business App and API have their own set of benefits, businesses need to consider the costs associated with the API before opting for it. While the app is free to use, the API comes with setup and ongoing costs depending on your BSP.

Keep it simple, talk it through with us at Hoola.

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Frequently asked questions

What's the key difference between WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business Platform?

The main difference lies in their target audience and functionality. The WhatsApp Business App is tailored for small businesses, offering basic features like message automation and a product catalog. On the other hand, the WhatsApp Business Platform, with its APIs, is designed for small to medium and even large businesses, providing advanced features like high-volume messaging, chatbots, and CRM integration.

Can small businesses benefit from using the WhatsApp Business Platform?

Absolutely! While the WhatsApp Business Platform is often seen as a solution for small-to-medium sized businesses due to its more advanced features and costs, small businesses expecting to scale or those with a high volume of customer interactions can also benefit from major ROIs. It allows for more efficient handling of customer communications and provides tools for better scalability.

What is the WhatsApp Business Platform pricing and costs structure?

The WhatsApp Business Platform operates on a per-conversation pricing model. This means businesses are charged based on the number of conversations they have with customers and its type: Marketing, Service, Utility & Authentication. Additionally, if you're using services from a Business Solution Provider (BSP), there may be extra costs for hosting or managing your API integration.