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WhatsApp is no doubt a force to be reckoned with.

With 2 billion users worldwide, it definitely needs to be in every customer-oriented company’s engagement strategy.

Businesses need to choose the right tool to supercharge customer engagement as customers today crave the good old personal touch.

Besides, if the current COVID-19 situation is anything to go by, even the World Health Organisation has partnered with WhatsApp to keep the world updated.

Undeniably, with so many different providers on the market, the question on everyone’s mind is, “How to choose a WhatsApp Business provider?”

This is especially key for companies in the services, e-commerce, and social commerce space. For these businesses, seamless, personalized customer service will definitely give you an edge above the rest.

Find out more about WhatsApp Business through our all-you-need-to-know blog on WhatsApp Business.

What is a WhatsApp Business API provider?

WhatsApp Business API, also known as the WhatsApp Business Platform, is a premium WhatsApp solution designed to help businesses, especially enterprises, communicate and convert. To start using the WhatsApp Business API, you will need to get a Business Solution Provider (BSP), such as 30dialog, which is officially recognized by WhatsApp.

Now, you might be thinking, why did they set up such a system? The main reasons should be:

  • To make extra profit

  • To ensure the quality of services is maintained

  • To avoid spam messages for users

Since the normal WhatsApp and the basic WhatsApp Business App are free, it is only reasonable for them to find another method to generate income. Also, when only selected WhatsApp Partners that have undergone their assessment can provide this specific service, they can maintain the quality with trusted companies. With WhatsApp broadcast messages allowed on WhatsApp Business API, the control and monitoring of these messages ensure that WhatsApp users won't be spammed with rubbish messages all the time.

How does a WhatsApp Business API provider help?

By connecting to WhatsApp Business API through a preferred provider, brands can then create in-depth relationships with customers through a customized experience quickly and easily. The countless functions carrying beneficial aspects can be summarized below:

Marketing and branding

WhatsApp Broadcast message template

Automated and personalized WhatsApp broadcast messages can be utilized to reach out to both prospective and existing customers. There are also additional functions such as interactive messages that engage customers betters with CTA buttons.

Selling

WhatsApp menu and payment

E-commerce websites may be harder to navigate for some customers. It may also take more time to optimize and design a seamless path for the consumers. As opposed to that, WhatsApp has features such as the WhatsApp catalog and payment links that can invite your customers to shop and pay directly in the chat. Everyone knows how to chat. Use this to the advantage of your brand.

Customer care

SleekFlow omnichannel interface enables multiple logins on whatsapp

Support your customers on their most preferred messaging channel and manage conversations efficiently with multiple logins.

Personalized notifications

Send Shopify Order Update automation/ 發送Shopify網店訂單通知/ 发送Shopify订单通知

Update customers with order details and delivery statuses with automated settings. No more copy and pasting or missing out on certain customers by mistake!

Conversational AI

Sleekflow solution for Chatbot API with whatsapp

The simplest WhatsApp Chatbot will be able to help attend to customers with FAQs. Offer instant customer support 24/7 and collect customer information for effective marketing campaigns.

WhatsApp Business providers: Chat API*, 360dialog & Twilio

In this article, we will do a deep dive into three WhatsApp Business providers, Chat API*, 360dialog, and Twilio. 

We will highlight their similarities and differences so that you can make an informed decision on which suits your needs best!

Chat API

Chat API* is a third-party WhatsApp Business API provider that allows you to create chatbots and integrate WhatsApp with business systems. Some examples of possible integrations include CRM, ERP, or even a website. Despite its convenience, Chat API*'s stability and usability are subject to many factors, such as internet connectivity. As it is not an official WhatsApp Business API provider, your WhatsApp Business account may be vulnerable to being blocked by users. 

*Chat API is no longer in service since June 2022 due to Meta's policy change. Learn more about the 2022 Chat API update in the below section.

360dialog

360dialog is a verified WhatsApp Business Solution Provider (BSP) that offers direct access to WhatsApp Business API. Rich messaging including images, files, location, audios, videos, links, and more, is also part of the service.

Twilio

Similar to 360dialog, Twilio provides a developer platform for communications and is also an official WhatsApp Business provider. Twilio can be used by software teams to add capabilities like voice, video, and messaging to their applications.

Read on to take a look at their differences!

English Version

1. 360dialog & Twilio vs. Chat API*

We’ve summed up how the different provider status impacts your usage in the table below:

Whatsapp Business API providerThird-partyOfficial (360dialog & Twilio)
Message content sentNo limitationTemplate message approval required
Broadcast6000 messages/ day; 5 sec interval/ messageInstant, no limitation. Sending limit can be increased based on WhatsApp approval; Stage 1: 1,000 messages /day; Stage 2: 10,000 messages /day; Stage 3: 100,000 messages /day
WhatsApp groups & user profilesSupportedNot supported
Verified green badgeNot availableAvailable; need to obtain approval from WhatsApp

Using Chat API* means that there is no limitation on the type of content and materials you can send to your customers. However, it does not function on the same level as 360dialog and Twilio, which are Official WhatsApp Business API providers.

It is important to note that 360dialog and Twilio adhere to guidelines set by WhatsApp. Thus, businesses need to send Template Messages for approval before they can be used. This ensures that customers are not being spammed by promotional messages.

Messaging limitations

Third-party WhatsApp Business API providers like Chat API* usually have a daily cap of 6000 messages that can be sent out. In addition, each message will be sent out at intervals of 5 seconds in an effort to reduce the chances of WhatsApp Business accounts being reported as spam and blocked. However, do take note that your account is still very likely to be marked as spam and blocked as Chat API* is not an Official WhatsApp Business provider.

Conversely, 360dialog and Twilio deliver all broadcast messages instantly and do not have a daily cap on messages sent as they are pay-as-you-go services.

Either way, no matter if you're using Chat API* or 360dialog and Twilio they should not be used to spam users that you have no prior contact with.

Further reading: All about WhatsApp broadcast messages

Reliability and authenticity: green tick verification

Chat API* works exactly the way WhatsApp web and WhatsApp desktop does. Therefore, businesses can use common functions such as different user profiles and WhatsApp groups. 

On the other hand, businesses can obtain the green verified badge when using 360dialog and Twilio by making applications through these official WhatsApp Business API providers! Doing so allows businesses to establish trust with customers from the first point of contact.

Unfortunately, this function is not available when using Chat API*.

Introduction to 360dialog & Twilio’s Official WhatsApp Business API

The Official WhatsApp Business API, as provided by Twilio and 360dialog solves some common issues faced when using the normal WhatsApp account or WhatsApp Business:

  • Limited user logins (only one phone + 4 additional devices)

  • Copy-and-paste texts

  • Getting blocked

  • No tracking data

Notable features of the WhatsApp Business API include being displayed as an official account with the company name and green tick, even if the customer has not saved your contact. As a verified business account, your brand will then be communicating with existing and prospective customers with an authentic and reliable identity without being reported and blocked by users.

Further reading: The ultimate guide to unblocking your WhatsApp Business account

Besides that, the WhatsApp Business API also has many other benefits such as multiple logins with the same phone number and account, interactive buttons, marketing campaigns with automated and personalized messages, chatbots, and more.

2. Template & session messages

Now, you’d probably be thinking, what’s a “Template Message”?

Only Official WhatsApp Business API providers like 360dialog and Twilio split WhatsApp messages into two categories: Template Messages and Session Messages. 

Template Messages are pre-approved message templates for outbound notifications like delivery alerts and appointment reminders.

However, Template Messages cannot be used for marketing. You must use a WhatsApp Template Message if more than 24 hours have elapsed since the user’s last response to you. Any other types of messages sent outside the 24-hour window will fail to reach the user.

Template Messages are charged at a different rate depending on the country you sent to.

For example, if you want your customer to receive this message:

Templatetext

You would need to submit the following template for approval:

templateexample

On the other hand, WhatsApp Session Messages are any messages sent and received in response to a user-initiated message.

A messaging session starts when a user sends you a message and lasts for 24 hours from the most recently received message.

You can wait for users to message you, or you can send a Template Message to invite the user to respond. 

Read more about Template and Session Messages on our “Essential Guide: WhatsApp Business API” blog.

3. Phone number & connectivity

Moving on! As we all know, a phone number is required to own a WhatsApp account, send, and receive messages.

WhatsApp Business API provider Third-party (Chat API*)Official (360dialog & Twilio)
New phone numberNot required360dialog: New or existing business phone number required, Twilio: A new virtual number required
Phone internet connectivityAlways requiredNot required
WhatsApp Business App connectivityAlways requiredNot required
WhatsApp web/desktopMust be disconnectedNot applicable

Businesses can use an existing phone number to run WhatsApp Business when using Chat API* but a new or existing business phone number is required for 360dialog, while a new virtual number is required for Twilio.

Undoubtedly, using an existing number to run WhatsApp Business on Chat API* sounds convenient. However, this means that the WhatsApp Business App needs to remain consistently online to send and receive messages. In other words, entering low-connectivity areas such as lifts or car parks will affect Chat API*’s stability.

In addition, the phone installed with WhatsApp Business needs to be constantly connected to the internet for Chat API* to run, not to mention that Chat API* cannot be used concurrently with WhatsApp Web or WhatsApp Desktop. This means that there is a high possibility for the customers to miss your messages.

Unlike Chat API*, 360dialog and Twilio can function well without stable and constant internet or WhatsApp Business App connectivity. And again, they allow simultaneous logins on multiple devices, so not only that messages will not be missed, customers will be able to receive assistance from the most qualified agent as soon as possible!

4. Fees and pricing

After hearing so much about both Chat API*, 360dialog, and Twilio how much do they cost? 

WhatsApp Business API providerThird-party (Chat API*)Official (360dialog)Official (Twilio)
Provider service costFirst WhatsApp number free; USD $29 /month per additional WhatsApp number (no longer applicable as of June 2022)USD 50 - 65 /month (USD 12.50 with SleekFlow)USD 0.005 /message
Phone number costNot applicableUSD 6 – 25 /virtual numberUSD 6.50 /Skype number
First 1000 conversationsNot applicableFreeFree
User-initiated conversationsNot applicableUSD 0.0224 /conversationUSD 0.0224 /conversation
Business-initiated conversationsNot applicableUSD 0.0745 /conversationUSD 0.0745 /conversation

Businesses can start using Chat API* for free through SleekFlow and add additional WhatsApp phone numbers with a USD 29 monthly fee per phone number added.

On the other hand, the total cost for using 360dialog and Twilio can be broken down into two parts which are the service fees, the phone number costs, and the messaging fees specified officially by WhatsApp.

Service fees

For service fees, 360dialog has a monthly fee of USD 50 for a one-year contract and USD 65 for month-by-month payments. However, you can get a special price of just USD 12.50 per month if you apply from SleekFlow!

WhatsApp us, and we'll be more than happy to assist.

Twilio charges differently, which is USD 0.005 per message, so it depends entirely on the number of messages exchanged with customers. If you intend to blast messages not just on WhatsApp, you may consider Twilio as they also offer other messaging services like SMS for different locations. However, if you would like to focus on WhatsApp broadcast messages, 360dialog is recommended to minimize the cost of sending a large volume of messages.

Phone number costs

Furthermore, to start using 360dialog, businesses need to have a valid phone number. You can apply for a phone number through Skype at around USD 6.50.

Similarly, a virtual phone number is needed to apply for WhatsApp Business API on Twilio, and the price of the virtual number varies depending on the country. For Hong Kong, the price ranges from USD 6 to 25. For example, a Hong Kong number that includes voice and SMS capabilities costs USD 15. On the other hand, a Hong Kong number with only voice capabilities costs USD 6. Thankfully, both types of virtual numbers can be used for WhatsApp Business API!

Check out how much a virtual number costs in your country here.

Messaging fees

Next, we have the messaging fee following a pay-as-you-go basis. It is calculated based on the number of conversations communicated, according to Meta's latest updates in 2022.

The conversation-based pricing is charged according to the number of conversations which are divided into two types:

  • Businesses-initiated conversations

For business-initiated conversations, businesses are the ones who send a template message to the customer without any prior interactions in the past 24 hours. The price for each user-initiated conversation in Hong Kong is USD 0.0745.

  • User-initiated conversations

For user-initiated conversations, the customers begin a WhatsApp conversation by sending a text to the business. Once they do so, any following messages sent by the business to reply to this customer will fall under the user-initiated conversation. The price for each user-initiated conversation in Hong Kong is USD 0.0224.

Too complicated? Just use our WhatsApp pricing calculator!

WhatsApp Pricing Calculator

Find out more about the pricing in Hong Kong and worldwide through our blog on WhatsApp Business API Pricing!

5. Ease of onboarding

WhatsApp Business API providerThird-party (Chat API*)Official (360dialog & Twilio)
Account approval periodInstant1-2 weeks
Template message approval periodNot applicable<48 hours

Using Chat API*:

First, businesses need to download the WhatsApp Business App from the iOS or Android Store.

Then, businesses need to scan the generated QR code on SleekFlow with the installed WhatsApp Business App. This connects the app and completes the setup.

*Chat API is no longer in service since June 2022 due to Meta's policy change. Learn more about the 2022 Chat API update in the below section.

Using 360dialog:

To apply for an official WhatsApp Business account through 360dialog, you will need a new or existing business phone number. Businesses can purchase a new Skype number or use the current phone number that they are using for WhatsApp Business App and fill in the applicant form. The credit card information is also needed to make the USD 12.50 monthly payment. After that, applicants can connect to their Facebook Business account and then create their WhatsApp Business profile. Last but not least, an API key can be generated for connection.

Need more details? Go through the step-by-step application process.

Tired of reading all blogs online? Want someone to talk to about your WhatsApp campaign?

Using Twilio:

First, businesses need to create an account in the Twilio console and apply for a virtual phone number. Then, businesses need to submit business registration materials to Facebook for verification and approval.

The approval process usually takes one to two weeks, you can head over to our guide for more information.

Upon successfully completing the application of an official WhatsApp Business account on 360dialog and Twilio, businesses need to submit WhatsApp Template Messages for approval so that these template messages can be used to contact and engage customers. Each template will need to be approved before it can be sent out, and these templates are usually approved within 48 hours.

6. Usage

WhatsApp Business API providerThird-party (Chat API*)Official (360dialog & Twilio)
Best forCustomer support & notification updatesMarketing, sales, customer support, updates, and more
Optimal company sizeSmall to medium businessMedium to large enterprises

For businesses that want to use WhatsApp for sales and marketing, customer support, or add a chatbot to their workflow, 360dialog and Twilio would be good options. As they are the official WhatsApp Business API providers, countless features and functions on WhatsApp Business can be explored to optimize communications with customers. Not only that businesses can engage users with interactive buttons or list messages using a verified business profile, but personalized promotional messages can also be broadcasted to customers.

Although SleekFlow provides and supports both WhatsApp Business API options, we recommend 360dialog’s Official WhatsApp Business API for utmost stability, legitimacy, and value.

2022 Chat API update: issues connecting to Chat API*

If you cannot connect to your Chat API* account even after troubleshooting, here's why.

As demanded by Meta's latest policy change in June 2022, all WhatsApp third-party integrations, Chat API* included, are to be terminated. Well, looks like it's time to move on to the Official WhatsApp Business API!

We understand how frustrating it can be to be affected by these changes; therefore, we're providing free consultation for your Official WhatsApp Business API application. Also, let's not forget that there are plenty of benefits to making this upgrade! Here's a quick glance:

  • Free 1000 conversations per month

  • The monthly price will be USD 12.5 (previously $29 for Chat API)

  • Broadcast messages and blast away without the fear of getting blocked

  • Be able to apply for the WhatsApp green tick verification

Good news for existing third-party or Chat API* users! SleekFlow is offering an exclusive limited-time offer with 20% off the first three months just for you. Grab your monthly subscription plan by entering the promo code on the payment page before it ends on the 30th of September 2022.

Calling all third-party users! Promo code: CHATOFFICIAL20

Final verdict

Chat API*, Twilio, and 360dialog all allow you to send WhatsApp messages using SleekFlow, an omnichannel software solution that will help your sales and marketing team better engage customers on messaging apps through automation, campaigns, and messaging.

SleekFlow provides flexibility to integrate with various platforms at the same time. As an official partner of 360dialog, Twilio, Facebook, and more, SleekFlow ensures that we provide the latest APIs to our customers.

However, it is important to keep in mind that Chat API* is a third-party WhatsApp Business provider. As Chat API* is not an official WhatsApp Business provider, it does not function on the same level as official WhatsApp Business providers such as 360dialog and Twilio.

That being said, there are countless WhatsApp Business API providers on the market. Therefore, it is key that businesses consider their usage and requirements when deciding on a WhatsApp Business API provider to ensure that their needs are met. Our team at SleekFlow has written an essential guide to the WhatsApp Business API to demystify this seemingly confusing concept!

Finally, here’s a roundup on the comparison between Chat API* vs. 360dialog and Twilio:

WhatsApp Business API providerThird-party (Chat API*)Official (360dialog & Twilio)
Verified green badgeNot availableAvailable
Monthly costUSD 29 *No longer available due to Meta's latest policy360dialog: USD 12.50 /month on SleekFlow
Best forCustomer support & notification updates Marketing, sales, customer support, updates and more
Optimal company sizeSmall to medium businessesMedium to large enterprises
Account approval period*No longer available due to Meta's latest policy1 to 2 weeks
Message content sentNo limitationTemplate message approval required
Broadcast6000 messages/ day 5 sec interval/ messageInstant, no limitation. Sending limit can be increased based on WhatsApp approval; Stage 1: 1,000 messages/ day; Stage 2: 10,000 messages/ day; Stage 3: 100,000 messages /day
WhatsApp groups & user profilesSupportedNot supported
New phone numberNot required360dialog: New phone number or existing WhatsApp Business phone number required, Twilio: New virtual number required
Virtual number costNot applicableUSD 6 – 15 /number
Template message approval periodNot applicableWithin 48 hours
User-initiated conversationNot applicableUSD 0.0224 /conversation
Business-initiated conversationNot applicableUSD 0.0745 /conversation
Phone internet connectivityAlways requiredNot required
WhatsApp Business App connectivityAlways requiredNot required
WhatsApp web/ desktopMust be disconnectedNot applicable
Existing contacts & conversation historySaved & importedSaved & imported

*Chat API is no longer in service since June 2022 due to Meta's policy change. Learn how to apply for WhatsApp Business API with our guide here.

Further reading: You can now get paid in WhatsApp on SleekFlow! Check out the payment link generation on our website.

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