After plenty of speculation, WhatsApp's plans for a separate business app went official in late 2017. It's January 2018 and the app is finally available for download, and millions of small business owners in India can take advantage of what WhatsApp Business has to offer.
Let's just take a deep dive into what the business app offers over the standard WhatsApp app and then look into setting it up and getting your business profile up and running.
Who is WhatsApp Business for?
Indeed, that is the one question that WhatsApp takes seriously. WhatsApp Business, is purely meant for businesses. It has been design from the ground up to offer a concierge-like service for customers and will only be used by business owners. WhatsApp Business, simply provides an app or platform for businesses to interact better with their customers by providing updates, support and basically the option to run their business off their mobile phones, on WhatsApp, instead of heading elsewhere online. In short, the customer will use the regular, WhatsApp app, while the business owner or manager uses the WhatsApp Business app.
Has this been done before?
Yes, but not at this scale. If you look up the Google Play Store, you will find plenty of apps that cater to business users. Uber, the app-based ride hailing service for example, has two apps: the regular 'Uber' app for customers and an 'Uber Driver' app for drivers who run the cabs for the service. In short, it's just an interface for the service end. But with a messaging platform with millions of users like WhatsApp, the scope is a lot wider, wide enough to create a separate app because it needs to cater to a large number of businesses, be it your local grocery store, the government, professional services and even medical and health institutions.
What's different from the standard app? (Features)
Yes, WhatsApp allows you to list your business and keep in touch with your clients at no cost. We gave it a shot and set up tech2 as a business, and we were not charged a single rupee. It does indeed seems like an idea that could put some agencies out of business. With a messaging app pushing out service messages, the humble, yet costly SMS could soon become redundant. When a business can bombard its userbase with marketing messages without the involvement of a telecom provider, you know things are changing. Services messages, activations and more can also be made via WhatsApp.
It certainly reduces the cost of sending out SMS messages, but it will also let you know that a particular service message comes from a verified service provider. WhatsApp Business also reduces the need for a small or personal business to pay for and run an app because it takes out the complexities of operating it, including the cost factor. This should be a boon for users as well because the service will come from a known source and spam can very easily be filtered out.
As for the standard features, there are ‘Business Profiles’ that will help customers get additional information such as the email or the store address, website or any extra description of the business. These are quite detailed and help establish the nature of your business on WhatsApp. A verified business simply adds to the authenticity and will let WhatsApp users know that you aren't some thief looking to cheat customers online. WhatsApp indeed takes verification seriously, as I will explain the 'setup' section.
There are plenty of messaging tools that let you, as a business, set 'quick replies' to ensure that they can quickly send answers to frequently asked questions. You can also give your virtual business a reception desk by setting up greeting messages that introduce customers to your business. WhatsApp Business also allows for custom 'away messages' for use during off hours or when the owners are busy.
Messages also mean data. Data that can be used to better understand your customers and offer better services, growing your business along the way. To this end, WhatsApp Business offers messaging statistics, a feature that provides business owners with simple metrics about the number of messages that were sent, delivered and read so that they can tweak the content of quick replies or their strategy of contacting their customers. A small, but useful feature indeed.
WhatsApp Business also supports WhatsApp Web, wherein you can manage the service online, without a mobile app. The feature is still not as intricate as the mobile app, but we expect it to deliver more in the future as many larger organisations join the fold.
These are the finer points that set WhatsApp Business apart from the standard app. As you have seen in the feature run down, it is built from the ground up for businesses or individuals running their own setup, to cater to client needs. It's also the very reason the app exists, because it offers so much more than what the standard app can offer for those currently doing business on the regular app.
What and how you plan to use it is totally up to you and the nature of your business.
What you need to run WhatsApp Business
There are a few prerequisites for running WhatsApp Business because of the way WhatsApp as a service is designed.
You will need a smartphone that runs Android (iOS owners will have to wait a while), a number for registering on the service. This will be your official, business number and will be used when interacting with customers. It's best if this is a separate number altogether, so you might want to take a new SIM. The reason for this is WhatsApp's verification process. WhatsApp only allows one mobile number to be linked to one WhatsApp account. If your current number is already being used by WhatsApp, you cannot use it for a WhatsApp Business account.
What happens if you own just one SIM card and one smartphone? Well, you will have to move your current WhatsApp account details to your WhatsApp Business profile. Mind you, I said "move" not copy. Yes, even if you have both apps installed on your single SIM phone, you will only be able to use one or the other on it.
If you need to keep your personal number associated with WhatsApp. You will have to go out and buy a second SIM card and buy another device to run it from unless you own a dual SIM device.
If you already are running a business (for example, carpooling with a massive group) off a separate SIM card, then you can simply move the WhatsApp account associated with that SIM card to the new WhatsApp Business app and take advantage of the additional features.
So what's the fuss about verification? In all probability, a separate SIM card makes things easier for WhatsApp to verify a business account. Another detail to note here is that WhatsApp is not verifying every business account. "Business verification is based on a variety of factors, such as whether the brand is notable", says the help website.
How do I set up WhatsApp Business?
1. If you already have a business number which is primarily used for WhatsApp, you will first need to backup your chat data to cloud storage.
2. To do this head to Chats> Chat backup> and then hit the 'Back Up' button. Ensure that the upload to the cloud is complete.
3. Next, download the app from the Google Play Store, install it and then launch it by tapping on the new WhatsApp Business icon on your smartphone's homescreen.
4. Once you open the app, you will first need to verify your business phone number. This will be the same number that you will as a business use to communicate with your customers.
5. Once your number is verified, you can choose to restore a previous chat associated with the mobile number. This would be the one you backed up in step 1.
6. Set your business name and then once in the chat area, tap on the menu button and head to Settings> Business settings> Profile. Out here you will get a variety of fields similar to a contact card and you can fill in all the details that you want to share with your customers.
Once you have done the above, the basic setup is complete. You can now start connecting with people from your contact list and use the messaging tools to stay in touch with them.
As you may have realised by now, WhatsApp Business currently does not support searching for businesses on WhatsApp. The business owner will need to have your contact number and add you to their WhatsApp contacts to begin an interaction, or add you to a group. It feels a bit rudimentary at the moment, but with messaging features onboard, WhatsApp Business has plenty of chances of turning into something really big and the addition of WhatsApp Payments should work as a catalyst.