WhatsApp for enterprise: everything you need to know

WhatsApp for enterprise: everything you need to know blog

By Maxine Hess

Writer | WhatsApp marketer | Creative

Posted: March 22, 2023

Updated: March 04, 2024

WhatsApp for business is big and getting bigger. But is it good for big businesses? Specifically, those with 100,000s of customers, or complex B2B enterprises? The answer is: absolutely, yes. Here's everything you need to know about WhatsApp and enterprises.

 

If you're a CMO, ecommerce manager or marketing manager at an enterprise, it's likely you're watching the growth of WhatsApp for businesses with interest.

 

You might be thinking of starting a WhatsApp channel or investing in WhatsApp software, but are still unsure if it's worth it – or how to put together the business case. If so, we've gathered all the basic information you need to help you make your decision.

 

In this article, we explain what WhatsApp for enterprise means, the benefits, the challenges, the costs, common WhatsApp enterprise misperceptions and best use cases. You'll also learn the practicalities of how to start and manage a WhatsApp channel as an enterprise. 

 

What is WhatsApp for enterprise?

WhatsApp for enterprise is simply the use of WhatsApp by enterprise companies to communicate with their customers – for marketing, sales and customer service.

 

To start a WhatsApp channel, businesses use WhatsApp Business – it's not allowed with a private WhatsApp account. There are two ways to do this:

 

Enterprises use the WhatsApp Business Platform. This platform can be used by an unlimited number of users and send messages to an unlimited number of customers at at time. The free app, on the other hand, can only be used on a maximum of 5 devices and broadcast messages to a maximum of 256 contacts at a time.

 

The platform offers rich functionality to ensure enterprises can operate a WhatsApp channel successfully: such as automation, analytics and green tick verification.

 

Learn more in our wiki article explaining the WhatsApp Business Platform.

 

The benefits of WhatsApp for enterprises

There are many benefits of communicating with customers on WhatsApp as an enterprise. These include:

💰 Increased revenue: thanks to the direct, personalised nature of WhatsApp, it's a highly profitable sales channel.  One of our first customers, SNOCKS, made its first €1 million in revenue through WhatsApp in 2022 and its channel continues to grow. In fact, WhatsApp is so powerful that some of our clients now prioritize their WhatsApp channel over all others, including email.

 

🤩 More visibility: WhatsApp achieves open rates in the region of 90% – 4 times bigger than email. Few people can resist opening a WhatsApp message, especially if it's personalized to their data and preferences. This is part of the reason sales are excellent on WhatsApp. If your message isn't opened, it can't convert. And the high degree of possible personalization ensures engagement.

 

💛 Longer-term relationships: money may matter, but of equal importance is customer loyalty. WhatsApp is a great channel for building long-term relationships with your customers. Enterprises often struggle to connect with customers on a personal level. Retail stores can be big and impersonal. It can be hard to find a real human to speak to online. And email is very one-way and non-interactive.

 

In contrast, WhatsApp is quick, direct and personal. What's more, all messages are together in 1 easy-to-search message thread. Marketing messages can be highly personalized according to customer data, buying history and preferences. In fact, some of our clients use WhatsApp entirely as a community/brand building tool, even asking customers for creative input into the next products.

 

🌈 Greater creativity: for marketers and advertisers, WhatsApp is an as yet untapped creative goldmine. Enterprises can work closely with their advertising and marketing agencies to create eye-catching bespoke campaigns that take minutes to set up and gain huge reach. These campaigns can be integrated across other platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Even if you've already planned your marketing strategy for 2023, these can easily and quickly translate into WhatsApp. For example, you can send your new season's collection on WhatsApp, or convert seasonal campaigns into short, simple WhatsApp messages.

 

💪 Competitive advantage: many enterprises (i.e. most of your competitors) are not in WhatsApp yet, especially in Europe. Any enterprise enabling WhatsApp communications for customers in 2023 will enjoy a "blue ocean" of customers willing to hear from you in this new channel, that aren't yet dealing with the marketing overwhelm they encounter in email and social media. 

 

📱 Customers are already there: WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world. Your customers are already there. You don't need to spend time creating and marketing an app: you just piggyback on a hugely popular app people already enjoy using.  

 

🐙 Expanding the marketing mix: these days, omnichannel is everything. The more channels, the more chance of reaching customers and keeping them with you. WhatsApp is an easy-to-add channel and very soon, is likely to be central to any enterprise's omnichannel strategy.

An omnichannel strategy fosters not only a strong online presence, but also cohesive brand messaging that shows up during any customer interaction – whether it be on a mobile device or in-store. Why omnichannel is the future of commerce

 

The challenges of WhatsApp for enterprises

The benefits of WhatsApp for enterprises far outweigh the challenges, but there are some drawbacks to be aware of:

🤷‍♀️ WhatsApp doesn't solve all business problems: if you're not getting enough traffic to your website, for example, WhatsApp is unlikely to solve this. Right now (in Europe anyway) WhatsApp is largely a retention channel. To find out if your enterprise is ready, see more in "Is your business right for WhatsApp?

 

📈 Results are hard to predict accurately (yet): WhatsApp for businesses is a relatively new channel compared to email and others. Our client's results are undoubtedly positive, but there's still only 2 years of data to draw from. Enterprises typically want to see large amounts of proof of concept from companies of a similar size and industry when starting something new. This makes WhatsApp a little more risky than other old-school channels.  

 

🦋 Change can take time: due to size and complexity, adding a new channel to an enterprise can take a little more time. We recommend using the marketing, support and sales infrastructure you already have until you test the success of the channel, then boosting resource when you know where it's needed.

 

📉 Enterprises don't yet know how to approach WhatsApp right: many are unsure how to find the right focus, use case and target group. For example, should it be for education, brand building or sales? With the wrong approach, the WhatsApp channel can fail to work. (In fact, the best use case to start with is marketing campaigns.)

 

🔒 GDPR compliance: enterprises based in the EU, have to comply to the general data protection regulation (GDPR: DSGVO in Germany). Enterprises outside the EU often want to adhere to the GDPR as a gold standard. Not all software providers offer GDPR compliance built in, or understand how best to protect customer data – which could lead not only to heavy fines but loss of customers. (See more about WhatsApp and GDPR here.)

 

However, what we're hearing from enterprises speaking to us, is that they're keen not to move into WhatsApp earlier than they did with email. Enterprises lost millions by being too risk averse when email arrived.

 

In economically uncertain times, WhatsApp is a quick, easy way to boost revenue, and in the end it could actually be a greater risk for enterprises to ignore the opportunity.

 

Reasons our enterprise clients decided to go for WhatsApp

Enterprises need to feel safe moving into a new area, and the decision-making process is complex. That said, our enterprise clients, like WWF and l'Occitane, chose to be innovators in WhatsApp for many reasons, including:

  • To stand out from their slower moving competitors who aren't yet in WhatsApp
  • The financial incentive was compelling: we have clients regularly making 20x ROI on campaigns and small businesses making €250,000 via WhatsApp on Black Week alone
  • Email wasn't working well for them, with low engagement and complexity
  • Customers were complaining they couldn't easily get in touch with them
  • Most customer service agents are WhatsApp natives and not only want to use WhatsApp but it boosts morale as it's a messenger they know and love
  • Their advertising agency recommended it because they'd seen its success elsewhere and want a new creative challenge
  • The internal innovation team recommended it as they felt it was something new that should be tried while sufficiently mature to be a low enough risk
  • They found the perfect small use case to test it out, such as friend referrals or upcoming product launch 

 

For some it was as simple as: "our customers all use WhatsApp to stay in touch with family and friends, it's time to let them use WhatsApp with us too."

 

The functionality WhatsApp offers enterprises

The WhatsApp Business Platform is designed to handle large volumes of messages and enable businesses to scale.

 

You'll find more functionalities in this article about the platform, but here are our top 3 for enterprise:

 

1. Put marketing content strategy into new untouched channel 

Most companies use many different channels: email, Instagram, Google, Facebook and more. All this content can be repurposed easily for WhatsApp. Or WhatsApp can become part of a mail or performance ad journey.

 

With automation it's even easier, which means enterprises don't have to invest heavily in managing a WhatsApp marketing channel. The WhatsApp API makes it possible to set up automated conversational flows that run by themselves. 

 

This also protects brand reputation as messages can be standardized – using the same tone, information and format.

 

Journeys_email_header

With our tool, Journeys, clients can set up automated WhatsApp flows 💛

 

How WhatsApp automation works

        1. Conversation trigger: customer sends a keyword/trigger word to a company's WhatsApp number via an automatically generated message (you can generate a "wa.me" link for this) 
        2. Automated response: a pre-written message is sent to the customer
        3. Conversation continues: the message can contain links for a customer to tap to generate more responses 
        4. Conversation ends: the conversation can lead to a sale via links like: personalized product suggestions, pre-filled checkout, product page and exclusive sale page 

 

2. Engage all your customers at once

In 2018, when WhatsApp Business was launched, it could only be used for customer support. Businesses couldn't send messages to customers whenever they wanted, they could only reply to incoming messages from customers.

 

In 2022, WhatsApp made it possible for businesses to send out unsolicited promotional messages. This marked a huge boost in the use of WhatsApp for businesses. As WhatsApp conversations cost money, making revenue back is crucial to justify it as a channel. WhatsApp marketing messages (sometimes called WhatsApp newsletters) now make businesses large sales revenue on an ongoing basis – with groups of very engaged and loyal customers.

 

Brands send WhatsApp marketing messages for a variety of use cases, including:

  • Discounts
  • Seasonal campaigns
  • Competitions
  • Quizzes
  • NPS score surveys
  • Product launches
  • Product finders
  • Brand building (e.g. describe your skin and find your best skincare routine)

 

Some may be concerned that this might turn the much-loved WhatsApp messenger into an annoying spam channel. Happily, this is not the case, particularly in the EU and when you use the right software and provider. We explain why the EU is safe from WhatsApp spam here.

 

We advise our clients to send no more than 2 marketing messages per month, and to make them highly personalized to a customer's preferences and behavior. Beyond that, they risk being blocked.

 

Find everything you need to know about WhatsApp marketing here.

 

3. Offer excellent customer experience

A WhatsApp channel offers a new, end-to-end information and marketing channel for your customers. This reduces complexity and gives customers the feeling they're connected with your brand. Where many brands send 3 emails per week that most often don't get open or read, WhatsApp messages (done right) are generally welcomed by customers. They opted in in the first place, and if you keep the frequency low and relevance high (good segmentation and personalization), open and conversion rates are typically much higher. And WhatsApp is interactive, so more engaging and useful for your customers.

 

And with the right software, it can be a very consistent experience with your brand, even across different teams. When many agents can log into a WhatsApp platform and view and respond to the same conversations, they can:

  • Pick up a conversation
  • View what was said before
  • Respond quickly with full knowledge of the customer's history and personality

 

How enterprises need to approach WhatsApp differently

As mentioned above, all larger businesses need to use the WhatsApp Business Platform to manage a WhatsApp channel. They all use the same WhatsApp API, with the same functionalities. 

 

However, an enterprise may have some extra considerations when starting a WhatsApp channel:

🐌 Internal decision-making process: there will be many stakeholders within an enterprise who will need to sign off on a WhatsApp channel. And before this, a detailed business case will need to be made. Usually for enterprises, shareholders will be involved and this makes good ROI and revenue figures even more vital.

For our smaller clients, it can be as easy as the founder signing up and starting a channel in a few hours. So for enterprises, the time to start the channel can be slower (even if onboarding takes around the same time for all our clients, whether small to enterprise). 

 

💰 Resources to manage a channel: an enterprise WhatsApp channel will be managed across teams and possibly timezones. It will likely also form part of many different company strategies. Enterprises will need to work out how this will impact operating costs.

 

💛 Maintaining brand reputation: though the internal WhatsApp set-up may be disparate, for the customer it should be a seamless, positive, consistent brand experience. What measures do you need to put in place to ensure the same tone of voice, formatting, messaging and approach?

 

👥 Working with external parties: enterprises often work with external agencies on campaigns – sometimes for customer service too. They'll need to think about what access to give other companies and how to maintain consistency. What's more, if teams chatting with customers are in different countries, this may cause data privacy issues, which brings us on to... 

 

🔒 GDPR compliance (DGSVO in Germany): this is a concern for all businesses, particularly in the EU, but as an enterprise, you have even more to lose if you fail to comply with EU data privacy laws. Not only do you risk huge fines, but you also risk loss to your reputation, which can have a knock-on effect on sales and share prices. It's essential you choose a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) with GDPR compliance built in, who will train you in how to keep your conversations and opt-in journeys GDPR compliant. See more on how to comply to GDPR in WhatsApp here.

 

Use cases of WhatsApp

Here are some common enterprise use cases of WhatsApp:

 

🆕 Product launches

WhatsApp is the quickest, most direct way to notify loyal customers about a new product drop. 

 

😉 Exclusive offers

Some clients use their WhatsApp channel to send WhatsApp-only offers and campaigns. For example, WhatsApp-only product releases, or the chance to chat with an influencer or the CEO. This gives those who are in the channel a sense of exclusivity, and those who aren't a good reason to sign up. 

 

🎄 Seasonal events

WhatsApp is the perfect place for quick, seasonal messages and campaigns. It could be a discount, a game, a competition or a giveaway. Engagement tends to be very high on days like Valentine's Day, Black Friday, Singles Day and the holidays.

 

📦 Delivery updates

Many customers want to get updates about their order in WhatsApp. Many of our clients offer this possibility on their thank you page after a purchase, and get many opt-ins this way.

 

🗣 Referral programs

If you make a large percentage of new business through referrals, WhatsApp is the ideal channel for this. It's easy to send codes to customers and for them to forward these to friends.

 

Costs of WhatsApp for enterprises

WhatsApp is not expensive, but enterprises aren't always aware that it's not free. It's important to remember to factor these costs into your cost center.

 

So how much? You get 1,000 conversations per month free. After the first 1,000, you pay a cost per conversation, which depends on the type of conversation and country. You'll also need to pay for WhatsApp software to manage the channel.

 

For more on costs, see: WhatsApp Business API pricing.

 

How to choose a WhatsApp enterprise software provider 

Any WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) (like charles) working with enterprises needs to be highly flexible and offer a more tailored approach. A the basic level, this should include:

  • Easy-to-use software platform: that's highly scalable and grows with your business.
  • GDPR compliance: a robust, secure software platform, built with GDPR compliance built in.  
  • Excellent support: how to get the most out of WhatsApp campaigns and the software. 

 

In addition, the provider should:

  • Tailor its software: ask what you need and adjust its solution in response.
  • Recommend use cases: first, find a narrow use case for you to start your WhatsApp channel, then help you expand it across the business. 
  • Offer bespoke integrations: it should offer standard integrations (like Shopify, Shopware, Instagram, Facebook, Klaviyo) and integrate other solutions as necessary.

 

See more on how to choose a WhatsApp software provider here.

 

5 steps to start an enterprise WhatsApp channel

It's straightforward for an enterprise to start with WhatsApp:

 

1. Choose a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider

First, you need a Meta-approved software provider that offers the functionality and support you need. You can see the BSP directory here (including charles). Here's our guide to: How to choose the right WhatsApp software. See more about what a WhatsApp BSP is here.

 

2. Get a phone number

You'll need a new phone number to start your WhatsApp Business channel. 

 

3. Get Meta Business Manager

If you already have a Facebook page, it's likely you have this. If not, your software provider will help you with this.

 

4. Set up your WhatsApp Business profile

This will include your name, description, address, image and website. Again, your provider will help you with this. 

 

5. Get onboarded and integrated

Now it's time for your software provider to show you the goods. It will train you in how to use its software and WhatsApp best practices to ensure the long-term success of your channel.


Why are more enterprises joining WhatsApp in 2023?

WhatsApp Business has, until recently, been the preserve of small to medium businesses, with just small number of innovative enterprises venturing into WhatsApp. In 2023, a tipping point has been reached:

 

🚀 Innovators understand the power of WhatsApp

Just a few years ago, WhatsApp was a private consumer platform. A place for for friends, family and sports/school groups. Now, consumers in Europe – particularly our key markets Germany and Italy – are becoming more familiar with WhatsApp as a business channel. With more consumers trusting WhatsApp as a business, and revenue growing, innovative enterprises are starting to take note and get started before their competitors.

 

⭐️ The money is on customer experience

As Steve Jobs said: “You’ve got to start with customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” Net promotor score (NPS) and customer experience is seen as the core of revenue growth for many enterprises. This makes WhatsApp is an attractive opportunity – as a low effort way to boost customer experience.

 

📈 The results are there

WhatsApp is now mature as a channel. We have customers with an average contract value (ACV) of €60 earning average revenue per recipient of €30 in campaigns – meaning every 2nd customer bought something, or the value of the basket was even higher.

 

It's clear that the revenue and ROI results are now compelling enough, and risks low enough, to warrant an investment in a WhatsApp channel by an enterprise.

 

✋ The demand is there

Businesses are looking for more personal ways to communicate with their customers and build long-term relationships. Email is impersonal, offering only a one-way means of communication, with low average opening rates of around 17%. And social media is a crowded landscape full of noise and algorithms that can be hard to crack. 

 

On the other hand, consumers want quicker answers and more personal communications. They're tired of impersonal emails, faceless retail companies and marketing complexity. They increasingly want to use messaging apps to communicate with businesses. WhatsApp is the quick and easy solution.

 

🛸 It's a cutting edge

Tools are becoming more advanced, with ever more powerful automation, detailed analytics and deeper commerce integration. All of these boost revenue, save time and money, and help continual optimization. 

 

💪 It's a competitive edge

Most enterprises are not yet on WhatsApp. It's an easy competitive advantage for others that get there first. 

 

Want to know more about WhatsApp and enterprise?

We'll take you through a 30-minute demo of our WhatsApp software, tailored to your business. Just get in touch with us through the demo form and our enterprise team will get back to you soon. You can see answers to common questions below.

 

WhatsApp for enterprise FAQs

What is WhatsApp Business vs. WhatsApp Enterprise?

In fact there is no "WhatsApp Enterprise." There's just WhatsApp Business. WhatsApp Business helps any business start a WhatsApp channel to communicate with customers.

 

Small businesses do this through the WhatsApp Business app. Larger businesses and enterprises do this through the  WhatsApp Business Platform (API).

How do I get WhatsApp for enterprise?

Enterprises that want to get WhatsApp will have to use the WhatsApp Business Platform (API) – either through a user interface built by a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) or software they build themselves. See article above for the steps to get started with the WhatsApp Business Platform.

How does WhatsApp work for enterprises?

While smaller companies use the free WhatsApp Business app, enterprises use the WhatsApp Business Platform (API) through a user interface built by a software provider (or in-house). See article above for how to get started.

Can WhatsApp for enterprise be used for marketing purposes?

Yes, enterprises can use WhatsApp Business for marketing purposes. Since 2022, WhatsApp allowed businesses to send unsolicited messages to subscribers with promotions like discounts, product launches and competitions. 

 

However, WhatsApp takes great care not to allow businesses to annoy people in this channel. It rates every business with a quality status and can limit or even block businesses who act in poor taste. Your software provider should advise you on WhatsApp best practices like message frequency and relevance.

Can I use WhatsApp for enterprise for customer support?

It's possible, but we don't recommend it as your main use case, as it can be resource intensive. The best case for enterprises starting a WhatsApp channel is WhatsApp marketing

How does WhatsApp handle multiple users at enterprises?

The WhatsApp Business Platform allows an unlimited number of users to chat with customers via WhatsApp. The possible functionality will depend on your software provider. At charles, we enable chats to be easily assigned to different agents, while each agent has an overview of all conversations. 

Can I integrate WhatsApp with my enterprise CRM and other tools?

Yes, you can integrate WhatsApp Business with other enterprise software solutions – whether customer relationship management (CRM), messaging or shop systems. Your software provider will help you with this.

Is WhatsApp secure for enterprises?

Yes, WhatsApp Business is a secure platform for enterprises. You may hear stories about employees being told not to use WhatsApp for business purposes, but that's a different case – using private WhatsApp accounts for business purposes.

 

In this case, people are messaging a WhatsApp business account. These messages enjoy the same end-to-end encryption as private WhatsApp messages. After that, it's up to the business what happens to the data. In the EU, businesses are bound by law to comply to the the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR | DSGV in Germany).

 

This require measures like: customer data is stored in GDPR-compliant EU servers, and it can be viewed and/or deleted any time. Any software provider operating in the EU should have GDPR compliance built in and offer advice for enterprises. At charles, we recommend all businesses, wherever they are operate according to GDPR. This helps keep WhatsApp a safe, enjoyable place.

How much does WhatsApp Business cost for enterprises?

The costs of WhatsApp for enterprises using the WhatsApp Business Platform:

  • – First 1,000 conversations per month are free
  • – After that, there's a cost per conversation in the region of €0.10, depending on the reason for the conversation (there are 4 conversation types: marketing, utility, authentication, service)  
  • – Plus monthly cost to software provider (if using)
  • – Plus additional fee per conversation for software provider (which incentivizes provider to grow your subscriber base)

Find everything you need to know about WhatsApp pricing here.

What kind of customer support is available for WhatsApp enterprise users?

Enterprises can get in touch with WhatsApp Business here: https://business.whatsapp.com/learn-more

 

For dedicated support with an enterprise WhatsApp channel, it's best to find a software provider who offers excellent ongoing technical support, proactive ideas and a quick, easy channel to answer your questions.


We hope this helps.

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