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WhatsApp Business API: The ultimate guide

Woman looking at her phone and chatting to a business via WhatsApp Business API
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Are you using WhatsApp to communicate with your customers yet? If your answer is “yes,” then you know what makes this such a powerful tool for customer engagement: two billion users in more than 180 countries, with 100 billion messages sent per day.

If you said, “no,” it’s about time you jumped on board – especially if you work for an enterprise focused on improving customer relationships, security, and its bottom line.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of WhatsApp Business API, starting first with the differences between WhatsApp’s various offerings for personal, business, and enterprise use. Stay with us as we navigate the path of using WhatsApp API to master customer engagement and propel your enterprise towards success.

What is WhatsApp Business API?

WhatsApp Business API, also called WhatsApp Business Platform, is an advanced, scalable messaging solution designed for medium to large enterprises with high-volume messaging demands. It’s a paid solution, and worth every penny for businesses looking to connect with their customers, whether for sending and receiving messages, notifications, or handling customer inquiries.  

It’s probably become pretty evident that when we talk about WhatsApp API, we aren’t talking about the WhatsApp Business App or a standard WhatsApp account. To recap, here’s what each of them are used for: 

  • Standard WhatsApp is for personal messages for people to stay connected with friends and family. 
  • WhatsApp Business App is for small businesses to connect with their customers. 
  • WhatsApp API is also meant for business-to-customer communication and is designed for medium-to-large businesses.  

Still not sure where your business falls? Let’s go through a few more differences between the business solutions.


Differences between the WhatsApp Business app and WhatsApp Business API

The primary difference between WhatsApp Business messages and WhatsApp Business API lies in how you use them.

WhatsApp Business is a free app for small businesses to create profiles, share basic information like business hours or contact information, and send messages (though the total number of supported users is limited).

Meanwhile, WhatsApp Business Platform (API) is designed for larger organizations, offering advanced capabilities like CRM integration and automated templates. We’ll go through more capabilities in a later section – for now, just keep in mind that WhatsApp API was designed for customers to connect with businesses in a more formal, controlled way.

Benefits of WhatsApp API

So, why should you consider WhatsApp API? 

WhatsApp API is a game-changer for enterprises focused on interactive business messaging. This powerful tool offers a direct, scalable way for businesses to connect with their customers, as well as access customer data for more personalized interactions.  

Here are the benefits of using WhatsApp Business API as an enterprise:  

  • Two-way messaging capabilities: Because it’s a channel that so many people are already comfortable with, WhatsApp naturally invites dialogue between customers and businesses, meaning you can use the channel to have actual conversations with customers.  

  • Global engagement: WhatsApp has huge user bases in Latin America, Europe, Africa, India, APAC, and more. If your enterprise has customers globally, WhatsApp just might be the right channel to reach them.  

  • Superior customer relationships: Especially for enterprises, it can be difficult to establish lasting, meaningful relationships with customers. WhatsApp can help facilitate these one-on-one, trusted relationships because it allows businesses to provide personalized support and engage with customers on their terms, and in real-time.  

  • Privacy: End-to-end encryption and the business account verification process ensures users can only receive WhatsApp messages from legitimate and secure sources.

Countries where WhatsApp is the #1 messaging app

WhatsApp is the number one messaging app in many countries, making it a great channel for global enterprises to reach a vast, diverse international audience.

Pricing: Is WhatsApp Business API free?

WhatsApp API is a paid solution – so no, unfortunately, it’s not free. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. 

Charges are made for each 24-hour conversation a business has with a customer – meaning you’re not charged per individual WhatsApp message, and it’s a cost-effective solution when you want to have two-way conversations with customers.    

These conversations are organized into distinct categories and are priced differently. These conversation categories include marketing conversations, utility conversations (like transaction notifications), authentication conversations (like one-time passwords), and service conversations (or customer inquiries). Service conversations cost less than the other categories.  

Understanding WhatsApp API’s pricing and what it means for your business might seem a little complex at first, but you can play around with WhatsApp’s pricing model here to get a better idea of how it translates to your particular use case.

And for more details, you can always download our WhatsApp API guide.

Key elements of the WhatsApp Business Platform

All right, you've got the lowdown on WhatsApp API, including how it stacks up against WhatsApp’s other solutions and how pricing is structured. But what happens after you decide you want to take the leap and start using the API?

Let’s look at a few critical components that make up the WhatsApp Business Platform experience.


WhatsApp Business profile

To use the enterprise API, you will first need to have a WhatsApp Business Account (WABA). With this account, you can set up a WhatsApp business profile that establishes your professional presence on WhatsApp. Your business profile also showcases important information about your business, like your business name, description, address, business hours, and category.  

Now, whether you're using WhatsApp Business API or WhatsApp Business App, you’ll need a business profile and will need to verify your business. Once your business has been successfully verified, you’ll be able to send WhatsApp messages to more than 50 users per day. 

But here’s where things get interesting and sets the API apart from the free solution...


Bonus: Verify your business for a green tick mark

After your business has been verified, Meta can decide to grant your business a green tick mark on your profile, opening up a world of possibilities. 

With a green tick mark, you’ll also be able to respond to unlimited service conversations, add more phone numbers, and even have a display name on your profile. These features are essential for having highly effective two-way conversations with your customers on WhatsApp.


Phone number

If your business already has a customer-facing WhatsApp number, you can transfer it to be used as your Sender ID if you want, but whatever number you use can only be associated with your WhatsApp Business API account. 

There are just a few guidelines on the phone number you use:  

  • The number must be listed in MSISDN E. 164, no matter if it’s a landline or a cell phone number. 

  • This number must belong to your business and be capable of receiving voice calls or SMS. 

  • The number can’t be a short code

This not only ensures that your users can receive your messages, but also gives them the option to call if they need to.


Message templates in WhatsApp Business API

If you want to send and receive messages from your subscribers (and we’re guessing that you do), you’ll need to have your WhatsApp Business message templates approved first. Most of the time, the template approval process takes only minutes and is put in place to keep spam from being sent to WhatsApp users. It’s all part of the process to keep your business trusted by your customers!

You’ll need to create automated templates for messages like upcoming deliveries, promotional offers, appointment reminders, one-time passwords, and more. If a customer replies to your messages, you then have a 24-hour window to respond (but your response doesn’t necessarily have to be templated – it depends on the type of message the customer sends your business).


Clear opt-in

In most cases, you’ll need clear opt-in from someone that they want to hear from your brand via WhatsApp.  

WhatsApp has a few requirements when they consider a person to be opted in to hear from your business:  

  • Your business must comply with applicable laws and regulations (like GDPR).  

  • Your business must clearly state that a person is opting in to receive messages from the business over WhatsApp.  

  • Your business must clearly state the business’ name that the person is opting in to receive messages from.


Messaging limits and tiers

Sounds great, right? It is! Of course, after you have a verified profile and clear opt-in from subscribers, you can’t send endless messages to users. There are messaging limits on how many unique users you can send messages to during any 24-hour period.  

This doesn’t apply to messages from people who message you first. And once your business is verified, you can start upgrading your tiers (to message more people) if your quality rating isn’t low.  

For more information about messaging limits and these tiers, Meta’s documentation has more answers.


The importance of quality ratings

All of the components we’ve described so far are meant to make sure that messages sent via WhatsApp are expected, useful, and of high quality. No business should be the one that spams their customers – and none of your customers want to feel like they’re being spammed.  

To help, WhatsApp lets end users give feedback on messages that they receive from a business and allows them to report messages or even block a phone number. From the feedback WhatsApp receives about your messages, your phone number will be given a quality rating.

WhatsApp Business API quality ratings are green, yellow, or red

Customers give messages sent via WhatsApp Business API quality ratings scores based on how they’ve been received.

No one wants to hear from their customers that they’re being bombarded with spam or being blocked. Our WhatsApp Business API guide will equip you with valuable insights to help you keep your quality rating high and provide a better user experience.

Core use cases for WhatsApp Business API

There are so many smart ways for businesses to use WhatsApp. Here are some key industries that are benefitting from using WhatsApp Business API, and how they’re using it for customer communications.


Financial services

Financial services organizations are continually looking for innovative ways to enhance customer experiences. With WhatsApp API, banks and financial services can power conversational banking by providing real-time account balances and activity, transaction records, and alerts in a secure way.

Another interesting use case for WhatsApp Business API is two-factor authentication (TFA) messages. Because WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, it can help banks ensure that members can quickly and securely access their bank accounts. 

These powerful examples (and more!) are just a glimpse into the potential that WhatsApp brings to the table to contribute to excellent customer service experiences in banking.

WhatsApp can help power conversational banking experiences

WhatsApp Business integrations and its encrypted, rich messaging features make it ideal for providing conversational banking experiences.


Retail and e-commerce

For large retail enterprises or e-commerce platforms, WhatsApp can serve as a platform for personalized shopping assistance. Leveraging WhatsApp’s two-way conversational features, retailers can enhance the shopping experience by offering product recommendations, rewards schemes, or more.  

Additionally, there’s a strong case for transactional retail messages sent via WhatsApp because of its high engagement rates. It’s great for messages like order confirmations, receipts, and delivery updates that keep customers connected throughout their shopping journey.  

Want a real-life example of a retailer that leverages WhatsApp API? Look no further than Orion Mall in Bangalore. They have a WhatsApp chatbot named Orion Genie that automates answers to FAQs around the clock and, most impressively, drive more visitors to the mall. In fact, they expect the tool to help them double the number of visitors during the busy holiday season!

Orion Mall customer story in text image

Orion Mall took a personalized approach with its WhatsApp bot, calling it “Genie” to show users that it could answer all their questions.

Orion’s chatbot now has over 3,500 conversations with customers every month – and the mall has already seen an increase in foot traffic, in part thanks to the fast, reliable information provided by Orion Genie. 


Travel and hospitality

One of the most common ways travel and hospitality enterprises can use WhatsApp Business API is to provide customers with details about intended destinations, and real-time updates on travel itineraries, including flight or hotel booking confirmations. This can keep them well-informed during their busy and occasionally stressful travel experiences.  

For airlines, WhatsApp offers a convenient channel to share travel logistics, like seat selection and boarding passes. And in case of reservation issues, WhatsApp can be ideal for delivering timely, conversational assistance when your customers need it most.



Customers expect more from their mobile carriers today, and many operators see a high churn rate after issuing the first bill. Conversational channels like WhatsApp can help with this dynamic. Sending personalized messages and videos through channels like WhatsApp can help clarify charges and reduce churn by helping you establish a personal connection with your customers.

WhatsApp also serves as a valuable customer service channel for sending tailored reminders about invoices and upgrades if you need to improve renewal rates and boost conversions.


Medical services

Medical services applications on WhatsApp can be somewhat more restricted because there are more approval processes needed. However, once you’ve secured the ability to use the channel, it offers definite advantages for enhanced patient engagement. 

With WhatsApp API, healthcare providers can send updates about appointments, feedback forms, public health updates, and even telecommunication services, resulting in better health outcomes. 

A great example of this use case is Salud Digna, non-profit healthcare provider in Mexico. Salud Digna used WhatsApp Business API to enable secure, easy access to lab testing appointments and results during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Their WhatsApp virtual assistant allowed them to quickly address common questions that previously would’ve required an in-person visit, helping to ensure great service for clients and safer working conditions for employees working in direct contact with patients at open clinics.  

The results are astounding: 5.1 million COVID-19 test appointment confirmations sent, two million test results securely and automatically delivered, and 89% of interactions no longer requiring a live agent.


Get started with WhatsApp API

When it comes to boosting customer engagement and scaling your business, WhatsApp Business API is an invaluable tool for delivering real-time, personalized experiences, and enhancing customer support, all through a trusted messaging platform. 

Your journey to fostering stronger connections with your customers starts now, and we can help! There are a lot of benefits of working with a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) like Sinch – like the opportunity to participate in special programs offered by Meta.

Ready to learn more? Our step-by-step WhatsApp guide is packed with detailed insights about how to get started with your business’ WhatsApp journey. 

Download a step-by-step guide to WhatsApp business messaging e-book

If you’re eager to discuss next steps, let’s chat. Our team is always excited to talk all things WhatsApp and conversational messaging with you!