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WhatsApp: What businesses need to know about pricing and conversation changes in 2023

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From transactional notifications to surveys and promotional campaigns, the WhatsApp Business Platform allows businesses to reach users on the most popular messaging app in the world. With more than two billion users globally, it’s no surprise that it's become such an important communication channel to engage and serve consumers.  

In 2023, WhatsApp is updating its business model, which includes changes to template categories, conversation types, and pricing. In this blog, we explain what’s changing, what the new pricing model looks like, and what businesses can expect. Don’t fret! For the majority, the changes are minor, and there are even some new free opportunities!  

What’s changing in conversations and message template categories?


Currently, businesses can engage in two types of conversations with end users: business-initiated and user-initiated conversations.  

As of April 1, 2023, message template categories have changed, and message template submissions need to include a new category selection. Starting June 1, 2023, new conversation types and associated pricing will go live. 

Business-initiated conversations will split into: 

  • Marketing: Business-initiated conversations to market a product or service to customers, such as relevant offers to customers who've opted in. Any business-initiated conversation that does not qualify as an authentication or utility conversation would also fall under this category. 

  • Utility: Business-initiated conversations relating to a transaction, including post-purchase notifications and recurring billing statements to customers who’ve opted in. 

  • Authentication: Business-initiated conversations that enable businesses to authenticate users with one-time passcodes at multiple steps during the login process, such as account registration, account recovery, and integrity challenges. 

User-initiated conversations will be renamed to: 

  • Service: Any user-initiated conversation, such as a customer enquiry. 

WhatsApp message template categories

How will conversation windows change?


For marketing, utility, and authentication conversations, the conversation starts when a templated message is sent and delivered to the end user. For service conversations, the conversation starts when there are no other open conversations, when you respond using a free-form message within 24 hours of the incoming customer care request, and when this message is delivered to the end user.

Upon delivery, a 24-hour session is started, during which you can send one or more messages (matching the conversation type) without incurring additional fees.  

Businesses can't use a template from one category (e.g., utility) to send messages matching a different category (e.g., marketing). If you send a message type that doesn’t match the open conversation type, a new conversation will start and separate fees will be charged. 

What are the pricing impacts? 


Starting June 1, 2023, Meta will have new pricing for marketing, utility, and authentication conversations. Marketing conversation rates will be higher and utility conversation rates will be lower (compared to marketing) to reflect value. Authentication rates will be lower than utility rates. Service conversation rates will be the same as the current user-initiated rates. Rates will differ depending on the market. 

Meta’s new WhatsApp prices are available here.

Is there still a 24-hour window for replying to user messages?


Yes, but WhatsApp has added an exception. If customers enter a conversation with a business through a free entry point, such as a click-to-WhatsApp ad or CTA from a Facebook page ad, then companies now have three days (72 hours) to reply. 

What if a business sends several message templates in an open window?


If a business sends a new template of the same category in the 24-hour window, there will be no additional charges. However, if a company delivers two different types of templates, then two separate conversations are opened and charged separately according to the message category. 

Keep in mind that if your business receives a message from a user but doesn’t reply, you won’t be charged. Conversations will only be charged after the first business reply to a user message is delivered. 

What are the new rules for free conversations with WhatsApp Business?


Free entry point conversations 

Prior to March 1, 2023, Click to WhatsApp and Call to Action (CTA) on Facebook Page ads initiated a referral conversation for which Meta waived their WhatsApp fees for 24 hours.  

Starting March 1, 2023, businesses now have up to 72 hours (three days) to engage with customers without any fees.   

Until May 31, 2023, businesses can send messages that would be classified as user-initiated conversations and business-initiated conversations and no fees will be charged (during the referral conversation window). Starting June 1, 2023, businesses can send messages associated with marketing, utility, authentication, and service conversations and no fees will be charged during this 72-hour session. 

Free tier conversations 

Currently, Meta provides up to 1,000 free conversations for each WABA per month. These can be both business-initiated or user-initiated.  

Starting June 1, 2023, Meta will limit this to providing up to 1,000 free service conversations per WABA per month, which means only user-initiated conversations count as part of this change.  

The 1,000 free conversations are in addition to any free conversations from click-to-WhatsApp ads or CTAs on Facebook pages.  

Why is WhatsApp making these changes? 


WhatsApp wants their conversation pricing to better reflect the value of the message compared to a regular text message. Due to the more engaging, multimedia capabilities, and re-engagement opportunities of WhatsApp marketing messages, Meta is increasing the prices of marketing messages, while also lowering the cost for utility messages. 

What are some examples of the new conversation types and pricing model?


Here are four different use cases to give you an idea of what Meta’s new WhatsApp Business costs look like!  

Example 1: Opening a marketing conversation inside a service conversation 

Situation: A service conversation is opened at 9:31 am when a business response to a customer message is delivered. While this conversation is open, the business also delivers a marketing template at 4.30 pm. This now triggers a new marketing conversation. 

Cost: This results in two separate charges: one for a service conversation and one for a marketing conversation. Changing the message category within the same chat triggers a separate conversation charge. 

Exception: Free entry point conversations are an exception to this rule. A template sent during the three-day free window doesn't open a new conversation. 

WhatsApp Service and Marketing conversations


Example 2: Opening a utility conversation inside a marketing conversation 

Situation: A business opens a marketing conversation at 3:40 pm when their marketing template message is delivered. A few hours later, with the marketing conversation still open, the business delivers a utility template. This now opens a separate utility conversation. 

Cost: The business is charged for one marketing conversation and one utility conversation. 

WhatsApp Marketing and Utility conversation


Example 3: Opening two templates of the same category

Situation: A business delivers a utility message at 9 am. Two hours later, at 11 am, the company delivers a second utility template message. 

Cost: The business is only charged for one utility conversation because it used the same message template type. Two conversations of the same message category count as one. 

WhatsApp two Utility messages conversation


Example 4: One template with both utility and marketing content 

Situation: A business sends one template that includes both marketing and utility content at 11.59 am. Whenever WhatsApp identifies marketing content in a message template, it categorizes the message as a marketing conversation. 

Cost: The business receives one marketing conversation charge.  

WhatsApp one message template with Marketing and Utility conversation

Are similar changes planned for other Meta products?  


The changes we’ve mentioned only apply to the WhatsApp Business Platform, and Meta hasn’t mentioned any changes to the pricing of its other services including Facebook Messenger for Business and Messenger API for Instagram

Keep in mind that if you want to take full advantage of WhatsApp's capabilities — from providing customer support to sending one-time passwords and marketing messages — you need to use the WhatsApp Business Platform. Only official WhatsApp Business Providers (like Sinch!) can give you access to the official WhatsApp Business API and help you unlock all the advantages of the messaging app for your business.

Got questions about the new WhatsApp changes or need help getting started with WhatsApp Business? Get in touch with our experts!