Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta has launched a new cloud-based business API for its other major social platform, WhatsApp.
The news – which was announced this week by company founder Mark Zuckerberg – should mean that WhatsApp becomes a completely new way for hundreds of thousands of businesses to connect instantly with customers.
What's more, with over 75 million WhatsApp users in the US alone, it could present an enormous opportunity for small businesses that already use CRM software but haven't yet integrated WhatsApp.
Get Down to Business with WhatsApp’s new API
Facebook’s new cloud-based Business API gives businesses an easy way to sync WhatsApp up with the rest of their customer service infrastructure, and so that data and interactions can be managed more easily in the app.
API stands for “Application Program Interface” – so, essentially, it means any business will be able to construct a business dashboard on top of the standard WhatsApp software that consumers use.
At Meta's recent Conversations Conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the move meant his company is “opening WhatsApp to any business of any size around the world with WhatsApp Cloud API”, with the goal of helping businesses “speed up their response time to customers”.
The first 1,000 messages you send with the business API will be free. Reports suggest there will be paid tiers and charges that depend on the number of customers you speak to in a day along with whether the conversations are initiated by staff or customers.
WhatsApp for Business: A Long Time Coming
WhatsApp has been attempting to make its platform more functional for businesses via company-focused offerings for some time now.
This new cloud-based API follows WhatsApp for Business Application – a program launched in 2018 for Android users and then for iOS users in 2019. The messaging app also launched its WhatsApp Business API back in 2018, which let businesses receive and respond to messages from users for free in a 24-hour window, with a fixed rate per message incurred after that.
However, this new offering makes WhatsApp an even more attractive comms option in an age where being able to contact your customers on as many channels as possible is key to retaining them.
How Will This Impact the CRM/Customer Service Software Market?
This could be an important development. The API can be set up in minutes, so would really lower the barrier of entry to businesses looking to branch out and interact with their customers on WhatsApp – something not all CRM software has the features or integrations to do.
James Macey, researcher at Tech.co and resident CRM expert, concluded that the new API made “WhatsApp more attractive as a communication tool for larger B2C businesses.
“Customer communication is a huge function for these businesses as it covers Sales, Marketing, and Customer service so very important to get right” he said. “As such, these types of businesses will likely have an established back-end communication infrastructure maybe consisting of a mixture of Phone System, Email, Messaging platform (like WhatsApp), CRM, Helpdesk, Marketing Automation.”
“[the new business API] makes WhatsApp a more competitive player in this space because their product is now far easier to implement into a communications infrastructure” – James Macey, Researcher at Tech.co.
“It's beneficial for a communications strategy to have all of this in one place with these separate apps all sharing data with each other. This can allow businesses to create more seamless interactions with their customers.”
James explained that before this business API was launched, using WhatsApp would have required a third-party tool like Twilio or software that has a library of integrations, like Salesforce.
But there's no guarantee a third-party integration will be better than a built-in one – and choosing the right software isn't easy – but Meta may have found a way for businesses to avoid that decision altogether.
“Now, businesses can seamlessly fit WhatsApp into their communications infrastructure no matter what software they use” James explained. “This essentially makes WhatsApp a more competitive player in this space because their product is now far easier to implement into a communications infrastructure.”