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Differences between WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp explained

Which version of WhatsApp should you use?
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You probably already know about WhatsApp, the world’s biggest messaging app. Over 2 billion people use it regularly to message friends, family, and, now more than ever, businesses.

What you might not know about are the different accounts WhatsApp offers to help businesses get in touch with those 2 billion users. A business account in WhatsApp means you can create branded profiles to give customers extra information about your business, such as your website, a brief description, the office hours when a customer can expect a response, and more.

Let’s explore these accounts and what they offer, as well as when and why you should use them as part of your omnichannel strategy.

Overview: Key differences

The main difference between WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp is that the business solution offers a free app for small businesses and a paid API solution for larger ones that allow businesses to use rich messaging to communicate with users. Standard WhatsApp messaging is only a person-to-person solution for personal communication.

WhatsApp vs WhatsApp Business vs WhatsApp Business API features. Illustration shows a man with a black beard in a yellow shirt and green pants reclining on a blue backpack while using his phone.

Standard WhatsApp is for people to keep in touch with friends and family. Users can install the WhatsApp app from their respective app stores to do this.

Businesses own and operate WhatsApp Business accounts themselves. You can set up a verified (optional), branded profile and use it to chat with WhatsApp users that have opted in to business communications.

There are two ways businesses can approach WhatsApp to differentiate their channel offerings:

  • WhatsApp Business App accounts are available on the free app through the app store. They only work with a limited number of employee users and are best for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • WhatsApp Business API accounts are for larger businesses. These accounts aren’t available through the app store, are paid, and offer more functionality for a more personalized user experience.

The WhatsApp experience that will best suit your business depends on your customer base and company size.

Now, let’s dig into the key features of these different accounts.

WhatsApp Business

A standard WhatsApp Business account is for small to medium businesses. It’s a free app that can be downloaded by up to four employee phones or used in a browser.

WhatsApp Standard vs Business App vs Business API

Your business account can’t use the same phone number as your standard messaging account if you have one. It needs a unique phone number for your business. And if you use the same phone for both accounts, it’s a good idea to use a phone with dual SIM capability so you don’t run into compliance issues mingling your business and personal contact lists.

When customers message a business number over WhatsApp, staff receive a notification and can open the app to reply. It’s that simple. You can also send a greeting message and pre-define some common responses for staff to send.

The simplicity of the WhatsApp Business App means there are some restrictions on  features, such as:

  • No account verification
  • No integration opportunities
  • No available automations

Because it’s super manual, it’s perfect for smaller companies that need a simple, free way to handle a low volume of customer inquiries.

We’ll explore the advantages of using a business account a little later. In the meantime, here are the main features small- and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of with WhatsApp’s business tools.

Chat with customers quickly

Businesses can offer short links and QR codes so customers have one-tap access to direct chats with an agent. This streamlines the user experience by making chats quick, simple, and convenient.

Label conversations for transparency

Business accounts can label their customers depending on the type of conversation, such as whether they’re a new or existing customer, a sale or a complaint, and more. This becomes especially useful when you have a large customer base.

Reach many people at once

Speaking of large customer bases, the WhatsApp Business app has a feature called Broadcasts that ups your business messaging efficiency by allowing you to contact up to 256 users simultaneously.

You can send multiple broadcasts if you have more than 256 contacts. However, users need to save your phone number in their contacts, or else they won’t see your broadcast.

Automate messages for efficiency

With lots of customers to follow up with, automation can help agents skip repetitive messages and focus on the important parts of the conversation.

WhatsApp Business can automatically send greeting messages to new users, away messages outside of business hours, and quick replies to frequently asked questions.

WhatsApp Business API

The other option for businesses is the WhatsApp Business API, also known as the WhatsApp Business Platform. This solution is for large businesses and independent software vendors looking to integrate WhatsApp messaging into their own products. It's designed to handle much larger conversation volumes.

WhatsApp Business API tiers: 1-1,000 daily messages; 2-10,000 daily messages; 3-100,000 daily messages, 4-unlimited daily messages

After your business has been verified, there are four tiers that each allow for an increasing number of user messages. You can upgrade your tier by hitting the following criteria:

  • Make sure your phone number status is “Connected”
  • Keep your quality rating at or above “Medium”
  • Reach half your daily send limit in a seven-day period with new, unique users

If you achieve those goals, Meta will upgrade your account status within 24 hours. However, you can’t simply pay to upgrade your tier.

This solution’s also valuable for independent software vendors. For example, if you develop a marketing automation tool, you might want to offer WhatsApp in addition to email, SMS, and RCS

Because it’s an API, it integrates with your internal systems rather than using its own interface. It can even connect to an existing contact center to allow live agents to answer questions via WhatsApp without disrupting current workflows.

With all the additional features, there is a small fee for sending messages via the WhatsApp Business API.

These are the main features large businesses and enterprises should consider about this WhatsApp solution.

Increase support with unlimited users

With the Business API, you can connect one account with unlimited devices and user profiles. This means you don’t need to throttle customer support through the world’s most popular messaging channel. The standard API allows for 1,000 unique daily contacts, and growing that number simply involves reaching out to half that many users in a seven-day period.

Verify your account for increased trust

While anyone can use WhatsApp Business API, there are benefits to launching through a Business Solution Provider (BSP) a third-party company that manages API access, like Sinch. We have the knowledge and expertise to help with onbaoarding, template approvals, embedded signup for enterprises to onboard in 15 minutes, and additional support features.

With WhatsApp Business API you need to verify your business before you can start engaging with your customers at scale, meaning WhatsApp reviews the business account. If they approve, you:

  • Receive a green tick by your business name
  • Can use a display name rather than a phone number in chat threads
  • Can send a greater volume of messages
If you have a business account and a personal account, use two phones or a dual SIM phone for compliance to keep your business and personal contacts separate. Illustration shows a hand holding a yellow phone with a messaging app; phone is shown with two SIM cards.

This verification is invaluable for big businesses, as it gives customers confidence that they’re talking to the actual brand and not a spoof account.

Improve contact management with CRM integration

With the standard business app, you’ll need to manage a traditional, in-app contact list separate from any CRM your business uses. With the API, you can integrate the two so you don’t run the risk of duplicating or omitting important contacts.

However, just like with the app, users need to consent to receive messages from a business. They can either message you first or opt in to receiving messages via a separate form.

Wow customers and help agents via automation

If you’re looking for automation, the API 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.

Hook it up to other internal systems to send revenue-generating messages like:

  • Automated renewal reminders
  • Personalized promotional offers
  • Marketing campaign content

You can also use it to reduce support staff workload by sending automated messages such as:

  • Delivery updates
  • Appointment reminders
  • Payment approvals

There’s no shortage of ways the WhatsApp Business API can speed up your workflow. And who wouldn’t want their agents spending their valuable time actually assisting customers and solving complex problems?

Utilize several types of messages to appeal to different users

Don’t assume the WhatsApp Business API just brings one-on-one messaging capabilities to larger businesses - it does so much more. With this WhatsApp solution, you can utilize:

  • Session chats that give the user control by letting the chat expire after 24 hours of inactivity
  • Broadcasts to multiple users that need to adhere to WhatsApp template guidelines but don’t require users to save your contact info beforehand, unlike the standard business app
  • Interactive messages with quick replies that make answers convenient for users (they can be sent as broadcasts, too)
  • Groups that you have the ability to create and moderate but not message in, and which users have to accept an invitation to rather than you being able to add them

Standard WhatsApp

Standard WhatsApp is a user-oriented WhatsApp account for individuals to send messages worldwide. A standard account in WhatsApp lets people sign up via their phone number in the WhatsApp app and get an account linked to their number.

Standard WhatsApp is used for one-to-one messages, voice calls, and video calls via a phone number. Users can also create group chats between multiple people.

The standard app doesn’t offer much functionality for businesses. Very small businesses like solopreneurs and single-member LLCs might find this WhatsApp version sufficient for their needs, but will likely need to scale once their business begins to grow.

3 business benefits of using WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a simple, convenient place to chat with customers. It should be obvious by this point that the messaging platform offers several benefits you can capitalize on to grow your business, but let’s break them down to see just why you should adopt this channel.

Your business messaging strategy needs WhatsApp so you can 1) reach more customers with over 2 billion app users 2) offer a stellar customer experience through rich messaging and 3) increase customer loyalty with convenience and verification

1. Your customers are already using it

WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app - why not stake a claim to some of the traffic with your own presence?

There are many ways people can find a business on WhatsApp and start a conversation, like:

  • QR codes
  • Embedded buttons in a website
  • Links to Facebook pages
  • Integration with Facebook and Instagram adverts

Many businesses use WhatsApp alongside 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, and more via the app that’s already installed on their phones.

It’s more dynamic than standard messaging

Any kind of texting communication with customers is already preferred over options like email. WhatsApp ups the ante by offering rich messaging benefits that foster a stellar customer experience. 

Automation options like quick replies mean less time fussing over small customer issues and more time focusing on the big stuff. And rich media like images, videos, GIFs, quick-reply buttons, and more give end users a top-class experience that will keep them coming back.

You’ll increase trust with customers

With added security and verification features, WhatsApp Business really lets customers know who you are. That boosts trust - and with 87% of customers noting they avoid doing business with brands they don’t trust, that makes a channel like WhatsApp a key component of customer loyalty.

Take control of your WhatsApp presence to wow your customers

It’s safe to say you know your customers best. You invest in the tools to draw insights from their behaviors and actions, and you know the communication channels they prefer to use. And when it comes to using WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp, there’s one solution that has the most potential to help your business.

To fulfill your goals and expand your vision, invest in a WhatsApp Business API partner that’ll help strengthen your business messaging strategy and keep your customers coming back for more.