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Standard WhatsApp vs. WhatsApp business accounts - what’s the difference?

Which version of WhatsApp should you use?
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If you’ve found this blog, it’s clear you already know at least something about WhatsApp – the world’s biggest messaging app. Over 2 billion people use WhatsApp regularly to message friends, family, and, more than ever - businesses.

But what’s not so clear to many people is the different accounts WhatsApp offer to help businesses. In this blog, we’ll run through the accounts offered and when and why you should use them so you can be sure to pick the perfect solution.

Standard WhatsApp account

The account and app that customers know and love. It’s a user-oriented WhatsApp account used by individuals worldwide to send messages. People sign up via their phone number in the WhatsApp app and get a WhatsApp account linked to their number.

Standard WhatsApp is used for 1-to-1 messages via a phone number or to create group chats between multiple people.

WhatsApp for business

WhatsApp business accounts offer a way for brands to engage customers over the messaging app. Businesses can set up a verified (optional), branded profile and use it to chat to users of the standard WhatsApp app.

Whats the difference between standard WhatsApp and WhatsApp business?

Standard WhatsApp is for people to keep in touch with friends, family, and businesses. Many of us have installed the WhatsApp app from the app-store to do just this.

WhatsApp business accounts are owned and run by the business itself. They aren’t available through the standard app, and in fact, there’s different ways to approach WhatsApp for businesses. But before we get into that, let’s look at why many brands are investing in WhatsApp.

Why use WhatsApp for business?

WhatsApp is a simple, convenient place to chat with customers! Many businesses use WhatsApp in addition to their branded apps because there’s no need for customers to download a new app. Instead, you can provide support, send notifications, promote marketing campaigns, etc., via the standard WhatsApp app that’s already installed on their phones.

Handset showing how BMW uses WhatsApp to keep their customers informed

Add to the fact that WhatsApp offers rich media like images, videos, gifs, quick-reply buttons, etc. – which all give end-users a top-class experience, and it’s easy to see why businesses are turning to WhatsApp. A recent IDC report found that 61% of companies surveyed were either already using WhatsApp to engage customers or looking to start.

How can a brand use WhatsApp for business?

WhatsApp offers two different ways for businesses to use WhatsApp. The WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business API.

However you choose to engage customers over WhatsApp, you can create branded business profiles to give customers extra information about your business such as website, description, the office hours when a customer can expect a response, and more. 

There are many ways people can find a business and start a conversation - QR codes, buttons embedded in a website, links to Facebook pages, integration with Facebook and Instagram adverts, and much more.

Let’s look at the two different ways to use WhatsApp for business.

WhatsApp Business app

This is the WhatsApp solution aimed at small to medium businesses. It’s a free app that can be downloaded by up to four employee phones or used in a browser.

When customers message a business number over WhatsApp, staff are notified and can open the app to reply. It’s that simple.

There’s no account verification, no integration opportunities, and no automation available. You can send a greeting message and pre-define some common responses for staff to send.

Because it’s super manual, it’s perfect for smaller companies who need a simple, free way to handle a low volume of customer inquiries. Learn more about the WhatsApp Business app here.

WhatsApp Business API

The other option is the WhatsApp Business API (also known as the WhatsApp Business Platform). This is designed for large businesses and independent software vendors looking to integrate WhatsApp messaging into their own products (e.g., if you develop a marketing automation tool, you might want to offer WhatsApp in addition to email and SMS). It's designed to handle much larger conversation volumes.

Because it’s an API, there’s so much more flexibility! It’s designed to integrate with internal systems and can be connected to an existing contact center to allow live agents to answer questions via WhatsApp without disrupting current workflows.

Hook it up to other internal systems to send revenue-generating messages like automated renewal reminders, personalized promotional offers, and marketing campaign content. Or send delivery updates, appointment reminders, and payment approvals to reduce support staff workload.

If you’re looking for automation, this is the option to choose. Program your own automation or connect chatbots to help customers answer common questions and give support teams time to breathe!

The WhatsApp Business API also encourages businesses to be verified – meaning they get reviewed by WhatsApp. Once approved, they’re awarded a green tick, can use a display name rather than a phone number in chat threads, and can send a greater volume of messages. This verification is invaluable for big businesses as it gives customers confidence that they’re talking to the actual brand, not a spoof account. With all the additional features, there is a small fee for sending messages via the WhatsApp Business API.

Standard app vs. WhatsApp Business app vs. WhatsApp Business API

We put a handy checklist together to compare the different features available on all flavors of WhatsApp. With this, and based on the size of your business, it should be clear which route to take.  

WhatsApp business comparison table

Ready to get started with the WhatsApp business app? – Download it here. If the WhatsApp Business API looks like a better fit, learn what you can use it for by downloading our channel guide and skipping to the WhatsApp section!