A few years ago, WhatsApp began to enter the world of business and enterprise with the WhatsApp Business version of its service. This offered new features dedicated to business, such as the possibility of having a company profile, quick responses, labels to organize conversations or automated messages.
This is a great option for individual professionals or small businesses, but it’s not intended for large corporations or multi-person customer service teams. But to solve this and be able to offer a better service, some time ago Facebook, as the current owner, launched the WhatsApp Business API.
Bearing in mind that WhatsApp is the most widely used instant messaging service in half the world, the possibility of using it as another customer service channel makes a lot of sense. Since users are used to using WhatsApp and thanks to this API, large companies will be able to serve us in a faster and more comfortable way.
What is WhatsApp Business?
WhatsApp Business is the business version of WhatsApp. It has some differences compared to the conventional App that we all use, such as creating a product sheet or selecting a series of “states” for customers to contact.
WhatsApp Business is practically identical, but with new features added, making it an easy tool to use at any level.
WhatsApp Business is completely free, has no additional cost and has features such as:
Company profile with useful information for clients
Quick and personalized responses according to the message
Labels to organize contacts and clients
Automated messages with which we can not worry
Statistics of data, clients, messages, etc.
Direct links to contact you by WhatsApp
Catalog to show your products from the application
What is WhatsApp Business API?
API means Application Programming Interface and it includes all the requirements, instructions and possibilities to integrate WhatsApp into other tools or automate certain tasks.
It is designed for medium and large companies with the aim of promoting communication with customers in an easy and simple way.
Since WhatsApp Inc. released its API, it is possible to integrate and provide messaging features to our applications through this platform.
Of course, the release of the WhatsApp API has not been public, not all users have options to connect.
WhatsApp decided to carry out this direct integration with several providers, all of them highly standardized and globalized, of messaging services, so that they would act as a “bridge” with the rest of the companies or users who wanted to integrate WhatsApp in third-party systems.
Currently the main providers that exist are:
Some concepts before starting with the integration
I’ll expand a little more the information on the use that we can make of WhatsApp Business, once we carry out the integration in our software or application. We must be clear about several concepts that will help us, to be able to better define the possibilities, functionalities and limits of said integration.
By default, WhatsApp Business does not allow conversations between the software and the user, if the following aspects are not met:
From the software you can start a conversation, through a “written” message or from a Template, previously accepted by WhatsApp.
To resend a message from the software to said phone number, the owner of said number must respond to our message within a maximum period of 24 hours. If this condition is met, a new conversation is started with that WhatsApp user.
In all the communications that we initiate to a specific user, a single conversation will always be active, which will be the one that is waiting for a response from the user (within 24 hours), or the one that the user has already responded to. WhatsApp does not allow you to have more than one conversation active in parallel.
The messages initiated by the software or application must be a predefined text (Template), which is sent to WhatsApp through the management panel of the provider that we have (Twilio, Messagebird,…).
It should be noted that these templates accept the parameterization of variables that are later used to build the personalized message for the target user.
Requirements to perform the integration
Through all the messaging providers named above, anyone who meets the requirements required by Facebook (or Meta Business Platform, as it is called now), will be able to connect a phone number with its application/software and send and receive messages from the same.
To do this, Facebook requires several requirements:
Access to Facebook Business Manager (Meta Business Platform)
Workable phone number for WhatsApp:
This number must be owned by the business/company or brand
This number has not been linked to WhatsApp
This number must be able to receive calls or SMS for the process
Business verification: you will ask us for legal information about our business or brand
WhatsApp number linked to Meta Business Platform
Once we have completed the previous steps and we meet all the requirements demanded by Facebook, we will need to choose the provider that will serve as a “bridge” with the WhatsApp API.
How to integrate WhatsApp Business in my company?
In this article, we are going to specify the process for the Messagebird provider, but not before mentioning that for any other provider the process is exactly the same, the only thing that changes is the web portal from which we carry out the process.
Once we have created our account in Messagebird, we will have to access the Channels section, since we will need to create a WhatsApp channel.
When trying to create a channel, Messagebird will ask us for permissions to access our Meta Business Platform profile, so we will have to go through the Facebook Login process and complete the wizard.
Once we have the channel already created, two more steps will be necessary to complete the configuration within Messagebird, and in this way we can focus on the technical part of the integration and test the sending of messages:
In the Messagebird management panel we have an option for managing templates. From here we can create, edit and/or delete templates, including managing the languages of said templates (in case we have multi-language shipments).
Once the template is created, it will be necessary to wait until WhatsApp validates it and gives us approval, but don’t worry, it is a quick process, which usually lasts less than an hour.
From the Messagebird panel it will be necessary to activate the integration with the API, and obtain the necessary AccessKey to make requests from our Software or application.
Once the steps mentioned above have been carried out, it is time to take action, and address the technical part of the integration.
What possibilities does the integration with WhatsApp Business offer us?
At this point, we will only need to consult the documentation of the Messagebird Api, to get an idea of everything that we can do thanks to the integration.
In the Github you can find examples of everything offered by the different sdk’s, for example:
Send message with a template and parameters
Set up a WebHook, so that we can receive the replies of the messages and manage them
Read the conversations
As can be verified on the official website, there are sdk’s available for almost any current programming language, PHP, Ruby, C#, Python, Java, so there are no excuses to be able to integrate WhatsApp with practically any computer system. current.
This will open up a wide range of new functional possibilities in our applications and process automation in our company and businesses, which will make the software integrate even more into our day-to-day lives.
In turn, favoring the transition in the digitization of companies, since a large part of the population is familiar with WhatsApp and its use.
Agustín Plaza Alcántara – Lead Developer at Itequia
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