Just when you thought you had a handle on the different types of WhatsApp messages, Facebook changed the rules of the game. Not to worry. In this post, we'll review everything you need to know about messaging with the WhatsApp Business API -- including a summary of what's new as of June 2021.
Types of WhatsApp Messages
The two main types of WhatsApp messages are customer care messages and notifications.
Customer Care Messages
Customer care messages, or session messages, are responses to customer-initiated conversations. You have 24 hours to respond to a customer-initiated message at no cost.
Customer care messages do not need to follow a template and can include media attachments. You also do not need to get customers to opt-in before replying to their messages.
To recap, customer care messages:
- are customer-initiated
- do not require the use of a template
- do not require an opt-in
- have a 24-hour response window
- are free if you respond within 24 hours
Notifications are business-initiated, templated messages that can be sent any time. Before sending a notification, you must get customer opt-in.
When sending notifications, you pay per delivered message. Messages are priced based on how many notifications businesses send within each market. Usually, you will pay progressively lower prices as message volume increases.
To recap, notifications are:
- require the use of a template
- require customers to opt-in
- can be sent any time
- are priced based on message volume
Types of WhatsApp notifications
Next, it's important to understand what types of WhatsApp notifications you can send through the API. Again, these notifications are templated messages that WhatsApp reviews to ensure they do not violate its policies.
Prior to June 2021, business-initiated notifications were required to be transactional; promotional messages were not permitted. WhatsApp only supported 10 transactional message categories:
Transactional message categories:
- Issue resolution
- Reservation update
- Ticket update
- Alert update
- Appointment update
- Personal finance update
- Shipping update
- Account update
- Payment update
- Transportation update
In June 2021, WhatsApp announced that it would allow businesses in approved countries* to send non-transactional notifications -- including promotional messages.
Non-transaction message categories:
- Product recommendations related to a customer’s previous purchases
- Helpful informational alerts
- Relevant offers
- Reminders to book an appointment
- Prior to June 2021, businesses could only send transactional messages that were non-promotional in nature
- As of June 2021, businesses in approved countries can send non-transactional notifications, including promotional messages
Note: this information was rolled out to Official Business Solution Providers (BSPs) and has yet to be reflected in the Facebook for Developers documentation.
Currently, *approved countries include Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Germany, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, and the USA.
Types of WhatsApp notification formats:
WhatsApp notification templates are customizable. You use text, graphics, multimedia, buttons, and more. This is a big part of what differentiates WhatsApp as a customer communication platform.
- Standard message templates — Common reusable messages you wish to send to your customers
- Media message templates — Expands upon standard message templates to include media, headers, and footers
- Interactive message templates — Allows you to send messages with interactive buttons
Collecting opt-ins for WhatsApp notifications
WhatsApp recently simplified its opt-in policy. There are now 3 main requirements when collecting consent from customers:
- Businesses must clearly state that a person is opting-in to receive messages from the business over WhatsApp.
- Businesses must clearly state the business’ name that a person is opting-in to receive messages from.
- Businesses must comply with applicable law.
You can read more about how this new policy differs from the old policy, and get helpful tips to collect WhatsApp opt-ins here: 3 Steps for a Successful WhatsApp Opt-In Strategy.
Best practices when sending different types of WhatsApp messages
Customers are in control of their messaging experiences; they can block or report your business account at any time. So, regardless of the types of WhatsApp messages you send, you'll want them to be expected, relevant, and timely.
Messages should be expected
Because your customers opt-in to receive messages from you, they should not be surprised to hear from you. Always be clear about what types of messages your customers are opting in to receive, and give them instructions on how they can opt out.
Messages should be relevant
Today’s customers expect a personalized experience. The messages you send through WhatsApp should be based on recent purchases or engagement with your business. They should also clearly outline any next steps required.
Messages should be timely
People should receive your messages when they are relevant. Sending messages too frequently will lead to frustrated customers and opt-outs.
Getting started with different types of WhatsApp messages
If you're a medium or large-sized company, you'll want to use the WhatsApp Business API to send different types of WhatsApp messages. The WhatsApp Business API makes it easy to send outbound notifications, personalize messages, and interact with customers in realt-time.
The API also helps you integrate WhatsApp's features with the rest of your tools or software stack. You can request access to the WhatsApp Business API through an Official Business Solution Provider, like Hubtype.