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WhatsApp Business Pricing Sends Clear Message: It’s Not SMS

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Find out how WhatsApp Business conversation-based pricing works. See why pricing makes marketing use cases the future of WhatsApp Business.

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Big changes to WhatsApp Business pricing went into effect on February 1st 2022.

The switch from notification-based pricing to conversation-based pricing is a major shift for the world’s most popular messaging app. It will impact all businesses messaging with consumers at scale on WhatsApp.

In a nutshell, it means businesses won’t be charged per message sent, but instead per conversation with a consumer. How a conversation is initiated also impacts the pricing.

We think conversation-based pricing is a great shift in terms of pricing model.

Why? WhatsApp is sending a clear message (sorry, couldn’t help the pun).

  1. The future of WhatsApp Business messaging is all about marketing use cases.
  2. Those marketing use cases are not SMS style one-way message blasts.

WhatsApp is focusing on interactive conversations as the foundation of how customer engagement, and therefore pricing, on WhatsApp works.

That’s a clear vision for the future of WhatsApp Business.

And that vision is not just about sending messages. It’s about addressing customer needs in a conversation.

Differences in how entry points into WhatsApp conversations are priced also means that marketing use cases powered by automation make a lot more sense than using WhatsApp as just another customer care channel.

The real kicker. Those marketing use cases shouldn’t be basic one-way offer blasts that have become so popular with channels like SMS.

The use case also shouldn’t just be trying to stuff your email newsletter into WhatsApp and thinking of your audience as simple subscribers.

Instead, the real value of WhatsApp lies in creating more meaningful connections with your future customers by having interactive, two-way conversations that allow you to gather data on their preferences and personalize marketing in real-time.

Before we get into the impact it will have on business. Let’s break down what exactly the WhatsApp Business pricing is.

The future of WhatsApp Business messaging is all about marketing use cases. And those marketing use cases are not SMS style one-way message blasts.

Conversation-Based WhatsApp Business Pricing Changes in Effect Since February 1st 2022

WhatsApp Business API conversations fall into two categories defined by Meta:

  • User-initiated – “A conversation that initiates in response to a user message. Whenever a business replies to a user within the 24 hour customer service window, that message will be associated with a user-initiated conversation. Businesses can send free-form messages within this 24 hour customer service window.”
  • Business-initiated – “A conversation that initiates from a business sending a user a message outside the 24 hour customer service window. Messages that initiate a business-initiated conversation will require a message template.”

Conversations on WhatsApp are measured in 24-hour sessions. The 24 hour conversation time window starts as soon as a business sends a message. That message can be business initiated or in reply to a user.

Brands and consumers can exchange any number of messages within that 24 hour window. It will only incur a single charge per session.

Repeat. Any number of messages.

That means brands should use the opportunity to create highly engaging conversations that drive valuable actions. Each initiated conversation is an opportunity to learn more about your customer’s needs and preferences, and provide personalized recommendations.

Charges are based on the customer’s country code. Not the business. Those rates vary by country. Meta has rate cards by country that you can find below.

WhatsApp Business Rate Cards for Countries and Regions

The first 1000 conversations a month are free. That’s great news for small businesses. It’s less relevant for business messaging at scale on WhatsApp, like our customers.

Now for a crucial part of the pricing hidden at the bottom of Meta’s page.

Conversations are not charged when customers message businesses using call to action buttons on ads that click to WhatsApp or on Facebook pages.

That’s a big deal.

It means ads can drive cost-effective growth of audiences on WhatsApp compared to other entry points. It means marketing use cases are the future of WhatsApp Business messaging.

Marketing use cases on WhatsApp Business are the future. But what marketing use cases?

Spoiler alert. It’s not customer care.

WhatsApp became a major customer care channel quickly for businesses that adopted it. 

No surprise. It’s the world’s most popular messaging app. People want convenience when messaging with businesses. 

Messaging brands on WhatsApp is a no brainer for a consumer. But now that businesses are paying even when a customer initiates a conversation, it’s definitely not a no brainer for businesses. Why pay a fee every time a customer reaches out for service?

Spoiler alert. It’s all about marketing automation.

We’ve always believed that conversational marketing use cases on WhatsApp Business are where the real value is for businesses. This new conversation-based pricing based on entry point makes that value even bigger.

If someone clicks your Click to WhatsApp ad on Facebook or Instagram, you don’t pay for the conversation.That means ads will drive cost-effective acquisition and audience growth on WhatsApp. 

You can connect Click to WhatsApp ads to conversational commerce experiences on WhatsApp that are highly engaging and generate zero party data on customer preferences.

You can then use that data to create audience segments to send personalized offers and recommendations.

You can drive valuable actions immediately after a customer clicks your ad. Plus, you can grow your guaranteed reach with verified accounts on WhatsApp. So you can re-engage those hyper-specific segments with WhatsApp notifications they actually see, and open.

What kind of re-engagement makes sense?

Spoiler alert. It’s not SMS promotion blasts.

Conversation-based pricing means you can take advantage of WhatsApp as a conversational channel.

Businesses pay the same amount for a single message as they would for an entire conversation in the 24 hour window.

This isn’t SMS. Don’t just blast a single promo message out.

Create an interactive conversation. Learn more about your audience and use that data for one to one personalization.

Offer a more personalized experience and give your customers a reason to stay connected with you on WhatsApp. It can become your strongest retention channel.

Spoiler alert. It’s not email newsletters.

Last spoiler alert. Promise.

WhatsApp newsletters were a popular marketing use case for a while. We’ve never really believed in it. We’ve seen some pretty awful newsletters on WhatsApp.

Newsletters don’t do the channel justice. They certainly don’t feel more engaging just because they’re delivered on WhatsApp.

As email marketing continues dying a slow death, it’s no surprise people turned to WhatsApp to blast out updates.

But if you can’t scale cost-effectively past 1000 free conversations a month on WhatsApp, why deliver your newsletter on WhatsApp?

Here’s an even better question. Why deliver a one-way promotional update on a channel that is built for two-way communication?

Successful conversational marketing use cases on WhatsApp Business take advantage of the interactive format to engage customers and drive actions valuable for your business.

Don’t just carbon copy the SMS or email performance framework. It’s about more than your open and click rates.

Conversation completion rate and declared data points captured should be at the core of how you measure engagement on WhatsApp.

For more info on those two points, check out this post on marketing chatbot KPIs and this post on declared data.

The takeaway

The new WhatsApp Business API pricing is putting marketing use cases at the heart of WhatsApp’s future.

It’s an incredible opportunity to be where your customers are. To automate engaging conversational commerce experiences in a one to one messaging thread.

One to one means it’s privacy-first and personalized. It doesn’t mean it’s one-way communication.

Success relies on automating two-way conversations that add value for customers and drive actions valuable for your business.

Leverage declared data collected in chat to create highly personalized customer journeys that convert.

Send relevant and highly targeted messages to make sure you reach the right person with the right message at the right time. Don’t just send another SMS blast or newsletter.