WhatsApp Business app: What is it? Who uses it? What's best, app or API?

WhatsApp Business app: What is it? Who uses it? What's best, app or API? blog

By Maxine Hess

Writer | WhatsApp marketer | Creative

Let's help you understand another WhatsApp Business term. This time it's the "WhatsApp Business app" – the free app for small business owners. Read on to learn what it is, who it's for, how to get it and more.


The buzz around WhatsApp Business in Europe is growing ever bigger. As DTC and enterprise eCommerce consumer brands wake up to the revenue and retention benefits of WhatsApp and conversational commerce, they're flocking to invest in WhatsApp Business.


We're here to help you navigate this new and exciting world.


Larger businesses and enterprises use the WhatsApp Business Platform (API), through a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider like charles. The entry point for small business owners, however, is the free WhatsApp Business app. Here, we look at:

  • What the WhatsApp Business app is
  • How to get started with the WhatsApp Business app
  • The key features of the WhatsApp Business app


What is the WhatsApp Business App?

The WhatsApp Business app is a free app for small businesses that enables them to communicate with customers through WhatsApp. 


Businesses use the app to: "communicate one-on-one with customers throughout their purchase process, so they can shop with confidence."


You can download the app and use it on your phone, and you can use it in your computer browser too. 


Whats the difference between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business?

WhatsApp is a private app for personal messaging. WhatsApp Business is designed for businesses who want to keep in touch with customers through WhatsApp. The functionality is the same – you can still send messages with photos, videos and other attachments – but with WhatsApp Business, it's more professional, feature rich and easier to use for larger numbers of recipients. 


Consumers don't need to download the WhatsApp Business app, they just use their private WhatsApp account to talk with businesses. Businesses on the other hand should use the WhatsApp Business app to communicate with customers. 


In countries like Brazil, India and Indonesia, WhatsApp Business is already established. Consumers there are already familiar with the concept of communicating with businesses via WhatsApp. In Europe, however, it's a new and growing market. Which makes it an exciting opportunity.


See our client stories to see how brands in Europe are successfully using WhatsApp Business for pioneering and profitable use cases. 


System requirements for using the WhatsApp Business app

All you need to get going with the WhatsApp Business app is a phone number, whether mobile or landline. See more about requirements here. 


Download the WhatsApp Business app here

You can download the WhatsApp Business app for free on the Google Play Store for Android devices, and the Apple App Store for Apple devices:


Get it on Google Play
Download on the App Store


How to start with the WhatsApp Business app

First, you need a phone number – this can be mobile or a landline (but not an extension number). You can use your personal number or you can get a new phone number or SIM card.


Then, download the app for free on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.


Now, set up a WhatsApp Business account:

  1. Tap on the WhatsApp Business app icon on your phone
  2. Accept the WhatsApp Business Terms of Service
  3. Register your phone number (see how here)
  4. Allow access to contacts and photos 
  5. Create an account – WhatsApp asks for your business name, description and a photo (this can simply be your logo but a picture of you can make it more personal if you're an individual business owner)


That's it.


What next?

Once you've set up your WhatsApp Business profile, you're ready to go. We recommend you:

  • Add to your business profile so people know more about you, like address and opening hours (tap EXPLORE > Business profile)
  • Start chatting with customers and enjoy more personal, direct connections – and the extra income that will bring (just open a new message, type, add attachment if you like, then send.


See more on How to build a profile on WhatsApp Business.


It's easy to set up a WhatsApp Business profile with the free app



Features of the WhatsApp Business app

Once you've downloaded the WhatsApp Business app, opened your account and set up your WhatsApp Business profile, you can get to know the features of the WhatsApp Business app


WhatsApp calls them "business tools." You can find them by going to your chats screen and tapping "More Options" then "Settings" on Android and "Business tools" on iPhone.


Here are some of the key features you can use in the WhatsApp Business app:

  • Catalog: add a "WhatsApp store" of your products and/or services for customers to browse through at any time – with links to purchase. In some countries like India, customers can purchase directly in WhatsApp. You can add and delete products, and hide and unhide them. It's best to set up reminders for yourself to keep this catalog up to date. See more on setting up a WhatsApp Business Catalog. 



See a video from WhatsApp on how to make use of WhatsApp Business catalogs



How to interact with customers on the WhatsApp Business app 

There are 2 key ways to interact with customers on the WhatsApp Business app:

  • Live chat: you can open a message to chat with a customer or reply to a message they send you. It's best to reply promptly to these so that people begin to trust your WhatsApp channel
  • Automated chat: you can set up automated message templates (that get approved by WhatsApp) so you can send quick replies to common questions, automated greeting messages and out-of-office messages while you're away or your shop is closed


What are the benefits of using the WhatsApp Business app for businesses?

The benefits of the WhatsApp Business app for businesses are many, including:

  • Closer connections: talk to your customers in the same place they talk with friends and family
  • Longer-term relationships: your customers are always there on WhatsApp. As long as you don't message them too much, they will be happy to hear from you on WhatsApp
  • Extra trust: people trust business accounts more than personal ones when making purchase decisions
  • Extra functionality than the personal app: with the WhatsApp Business app you can categorise customers to send more targeted messages, automate messages and even create your own WhatsApp catalog so people can find your products more easily 
  • Competitive advantage: in Europe in particular, WhatsApp Business is an emerging channel for businesses, which means you can get there before your competitors do and get your customers in there first



How to automate messages with the WhatsApp Business app

You can automate some messages through the WhatsApp Business app:


As you grow bigger though, you will need to move to the WhatsApp Business Platform (API) with a WhatsApp BSP like charles for more automation functionality. You will then have access to a world of features like automated messages (we do this through our open canvas, Journeys), tracking and analytics and scheduled campaign sendouts. 


You can migrate your WhatsApp Business account to the WhatsApp API without a problem. Your WhatsApp BSP (like us) will help you with this. 


Why would I need automated WhatsApp messages?

Automated WhatsApp conversations are very useful for growing businesses looking to save time, keep engagement and provide standard answers to common questions.


If you're finding that you're spending too much time responding to customer questions, or you customers are messaging you out of hours, automated messages are a good way to remain responsive to customers when you're not available.


When should you move from the WhatsApp Business app to the API?

It's a big decision to move to the WhatsApp Business API. Mainly because it costs more than the free app. You will need to pay WhatsApp per conversation you have with customers, plus fees to a software provider. See more on WhatsApp Business Pricing here.


But there comes a point when the app just isn't enough anymore. You can't send messages to more than 256 contacts, you can't automate messages and you miss out on so much functionality that a scaling business needs. 


At charles, we see ROI of 10x on average for WhatsApp campaigns sent through the WhatsApp Business API, so we know the investment in the API is worth it. But the API is just the functionality, to use it you'll need software like charles.


So how do you know when you're ready to move to the API and invest in software? We recommend our software for businesses that have qualities including:

         🍔 Sell products rather than services

         🤑 Make at least €1 million turnover

         🧑‍💻 Have website visitors of at least 15k per month.


We've made a handy guide here you can check your business against: Is your business right for WhatsApp Business software? 


What else do you need to know?

Here are other topics related to the WhatsApp Business app that would be good to explore if you're looking get started and want to inform yourself:

  • WhatsApp marketing: at charles, we see the most return on investment (ROI) through marketing use cases, like sending offers
  • WhatsApp newsletters: our core WhatsApp marketing use case – transferring email newsletters into WhatsApp, but bitesize and with 3x open rates and higher conversion rates
  • WhatsApp Business Platform (API): as you scale, you'll need to invest in the WhatsApp API through software like charles. Here's everything you need to know
  • WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP): learn about the companies (like us) that partner with Meta to bring you a user interface and support so you can start and manage a profitable WhatsApp channel
  • WhatsApp for enterprise: how does WhatsApp Business differ for enterprises? Check out our guide for large, global businesses looking for the personal touch of WhatsApp.
  • WhatsApp greeting messages: see 10 good examples for how to greet your customers at the first touchpoint – and increase your sales
  • WhatsApp campaign ideas: check out how you can get creative in WhatsApp to engage, surprise and delight customers for seasonal campaigns like Black Friday
  • Conversational commerce: more than a buzzword, with consumers looking for more personal ways to connect with brands, the future of sales is through messaging apps, mostly either (in Europe) WhatsApp or (in the US) SMS 
  • More WhatsApp terms: our glossary defines all the key terms you'll come across when it comes to WhatsApp Business and conversational commerce 


Where does charles fit in all this?

We don't work with the WhatsApp Business app. That's for small business owners to use independently.


We're a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) that provides a WhatsApp marketing platform for larger eCommerce brands with multiple users and 100,000s of customers. It's built on the feature-rich, scalable WhatsApp Business API. 


Our key features are:

  • Journeys: automated conversational flow feature designed simply on an open canvas
  • Campaigns: send complex marketing campaigns to 100,000s of customers, view results, schedule campaigns
  • Conversations: a WhatsApp contact center for multiple agents to see conversations, reply, view analytics and automate messages
  • Commerce: shop integration for increased sales and extra information at your fingertips
  • Chat-ins: readymade popups, buttons and boxes you can add to your website to bring customers into your WhatsApp channel and grow your audience
  • Integrations: the charles WhatsApp platform integrates with Facebook Messenger, Shopify, Instagram, Klaviyo and all the tools you need to work with WhatsApp



The WhatsApp Business app is a powerful tool for small businesses to boost revenue and enjoy more personal connections with customers – in an app they already love. 


With features like catalogs, automated messages and labels, you can organize your business with WhatsApp Business far more easily than with your personal account. 


As you scale and want to add more than 256 contacts, you'll need to move to the WhatsApp Business Platform through a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) like charles. We can offer you extra functionality like more advanced automation, deep analytics and support form our conversational commerce (cCom) experts. 


But if you're just starting off and want to give WhatsApp a try, we recommend you just go for it. Download the WhatsApp Business app for free now and get chatting.



Want to take the next step up from the basic WhatsApp Business app? Book a demo with us and we'll show you use cases to further your business goals, and show you how you can ensure ROI.


FAQs about the WhatsApp Business app

How much does the WhatsApp Business app cost?

Nothing. It's free to download and free to use.

Can I create a WhatsApp Business account without a phone number?

No. You need a phone number for every WhatsApp Business account you want to set up. This can be a mobile phone number or a landline (as long as it's not an extension number).

Should I use the WhatsApp Business app or the WhatsApp Business API?

If you're a small business owner with less than 256 contacts, you should be fine using the app.


If you're a medium to large company with over 256 contacts, it's best to use the API.


Our clients who get the most retun on a WhatsApp channel are consumer eCommerce brands with a turnover of over €1 million, at least 15k website visitors per month, and that sell products rather than services – the higher average order value (AOV) the better.


See: Is your business right for WhatsApp Business software (API)?

Where can I download the WhatsApp Business app?

You can download the WhatsApp Business app for free here: Google Play Store for Android devices and the Apple App Store for iPhone.

Can I automate messages with the WhatsApp Business app?

Yes, but with limited functionality compared to the API. You can send out-of-office messages, quick replies and automated WhatsApp greeting messages.


For more functionality, you should invest in software like charles so you can use the features of the WhatsApp API. See more about our automation features, Journeys.


Get updates straight
to your phone.