WhatsApp for outbound communications

17 February 2023

What do we call Outbound communications in WhatsApp?

In WhatsApp, outbound communications are those in which the brand takes the first step to start a conversation with the user (business initiated conversation).

This first step can be given in 2 different situations:

  • Continue a previous conversation open in the last 24h.
  • Using a template pre-validated by WhatsApp.

Let’s remember that a conversation can only exist if the user has previously accepted the contact, which on a conceptual level is an important difference with the “unsolicited” communications that the term “outbound marketing” usually defines.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the factors to consider if you decide to use the popular messaging tool as a resource for your outbound communications.

What are the limits of brands when starting a conversation on WhatsApp?

To ensure that the conversations have value for the end user, WhatsApp prioritizes the conversations initiated by the user, in which case a 24-hour window is started in which the brand can communicate with this user, without the need to use templates. But when the conversation is started by the brand, the formulas are much more limited.

As it has developed the tools of its Business version, it has progressively expanded these limits, with important differences . for verified and unverified companies.

Unverified companies cannot initiate more than 50 conversations a day (it is expected to increase to 250), while verified companies may establish between 1,000 – Infinite conversations based on the quality criteria established by WhatsApp.

The quality criteria, to increase the number of messages available, take into account factors such as, that the status of your phone number is “connected”, the history of messages sent in previous days, and the score of the phone number itself, which in turn is influenced by the quality of the messages.

These limitations exist both for direct users of the WhatsApp Business platform and for those who use it through third-party services (eg Twilio) .

What are pre-approved WhatsApp templates for?

The templates of WhatsApp messages are designed to send reminders, notifications and personalized updates to customers who have previously provided their consent to the mark to start conversations with them.

Each company can have up to 250 different templates (expandable, upon request, to 1500).

Unless the user has taken the initiative to speak to the brand in the last 24h, the only way to Starting a conversation with him is through the use of templates. These templates must be approved by WhatsApp (it may take up to 48 hours to validate or reject your template), and they must necessarily fit into one of these categories:

  • Account Update: Inform customers about updates or changes to their accounts.
  • Update Alert: Send important updates or news to customers.
  • Appointment Update: Send confirmations, reminders, or other updates to clients about their appointments.
  • Autoresponder: Send automatic responses to customers when your business is not online or available to respond immediately.
  • Problem Resolution: Respond to customer questions, concerns, or comments about your business.
  • Payment Update: Sends a message to customers about their payment.
  • Personal Finance Update: Send a message to customers about their personal finances.
  • Reservation Update: Send confirmations, reminders, or other updates to customers about their reservations.
  • Shipping Update: Send shipping updates to customers about their orders.
  • Request Update: Send information or request updates to customers.
  • Transportation Update: Sends transport information or updates to clients.

The approval status of these templates may vary based on customer feedback. Therefore, your workflow is exposed to occasional stoppages due to user complaints.

Can I use WhatsApp groups to communicate with my clients?

Some might think that the functionality of groups, it is generous enough (allows up to 1024 participants) to be used as a distribution list, but its use implies sharing personal information among group members, so you will not be able to comply with the minimum privacy requirements in a commercial communication.

The privacy for groups settings have also evolved, so that the user can set who they want receiving an invite to a group, and that can directly dismiss your brand.

On the other hand, it is easy for a user to share the group invitation link with other users, so you will lose control over who is part of the group.

Can I use WhatsApp voice calls as a business voice channel?

The main advantage of voice calls on WhatsApp is that they are free VoIP calls, even if they are international calls, both from the mobile and desktop versions, although not from the web version.

Among the main limitations, we must highlight the impossibility of calling landlines or any phone that is not associated with a WhatsApp account. You will also not be able to establish contact with those users who have not previously accepted the business as a contact, and you will need to use a template with a CTA to start the conversation. This translates into a good number of occasions in which the contact attempt will not come to fruition.

From the point of view of a call center that wants to carry out an outbound campaign, these limitations may be enough to opt for other more universal options.

On the other hand, integrating this channel for voice calls into the operation is very problematic:
– Incompatibility with legacy routing policies.
– Impossibility of using virtual numbers.
– Call recording.
– IVR integration.
– Very limited multi-agent management of the channel.
– Regulatory compliance in highly regulated sectors (e.g. banking, health).

In the previous post dedicated to the history and roadmap of WhatApps I already suggested that the business focus of WhatsApp business is on transactional messages, following in the wake of SMS (its original mission was to be an alternative to SMS), this explains a higher level of development of integrations with ERPs, CRMs, ecommerces, compared to integrations with telephone networks.

WhatsApp voice calls are VoIP calls over “variations” of fairly widespread technologies and protocols (Opus codecs, SRTP, PJSIP, XMPP, NAT traversal), which shouldn’t be a challenge insurmountable in order to allow greater interoperability with other networks, as MS Teams (remember the case of SILK codec, which has forced manufacturers of network elements such as SBCs to undertake a new transcoding process), Google SIP link, or Zoom Phone… So we must deduce that this is a business decision (and like many others, it can be change from one moment to another).

Can WhatsApp be considered an advertising tool?

WhatsApp Messenger was not designed for mass communications. Although in the market we can find some tools that propose this exploitation of the messaging application, the use of the standard version of WhatsApp to send bulk messages,  it is not something that Meta promotes or favors, in fact, it claims to delete 8 million accounts a month for spamming.

With “known” audiences, that is, existing contacts, there is some scope for commercial communications: you can send messages related to products and services and transactional messages (for example, an invoice for an order) to contacts with whom there is already a conversation started (in the last 24 hours) or through the templates for marketing purposes (having to give the option to opt out, and exposing yourself to being penalized for negative feedback, something that will directly impact the volume of messages that you will be able to send later). It seems quite clear that Meta’s advertising exploitation model has other priority fronts, at least for now, since any medium-term statement with Meta is risky.

To reach new audiences, Meta has an already mature advertising business through Instagram and Facebook, for actions focused on achieving reach among different audiences, with all kinds of integrations with CRMs, and ecommerce platforms, to create audiences based on behavioral criteria, interests, customer profile or sociodemographics.

In Europe, unlike other markets such as the USA, India or Brazil, Meta cannot share user data between its different platforms (WhatsApp and Facebook or Instagram), which affects the use of the information generated in WhatsApp as a tool for advertising segmentation. This is not to say that the information transmitted through the API does not provide for the use of metadata for such purposes, which creates some friction in relation to the protection of personal data.

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