WhatsApp Business App vs WhatsApp Business Platform (API)

May 15, 2023

WhatsApp Business App vs. WhatsApp Business Platform (API)

A guide to explain the difference, and when to use each.

I get asked all the time why a business should use WhatsApp business platform (sometimes called the WhatsApp business API) versus the free to download WhatsApp business App. I typically answer that it depends on your business needs.  

Here is the definition from Meta, the owner of WhatsApp.

  • The WhatsApp Business app is intended for small businesses whose primary need is to communicate with customers 1-on-1 through the mobile app.
  • The WhatsApp Business Platform enables businesses to directly integrate WhatsApp with their applications and workflows to connect with their customers on a global scale.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are a small business and prefer 1:1 communication with your customers then WhatsApp business App is the right solution for you. However, if you are a larger business, have multiple staff, may require integrations to back-end or 3rd party systems and want a scalable solution that can engage your customers 24x7 then you should consider WhatsApp business platform. You will need some development to use the business platform or use a service like Payemoji.  Read on so we can explain more.  

Why is messaging gaining traction with businesses? 

Before we delve into the differences between the solutions, it is important to make sure we first explain why businesses and organizations are increasingly looking to messaging based solutions to engage with their customers and members of the public.  Most of us are accessing the internet and searching for products and services on our phones. No one likes to use web browsers on their phones as it provides a poor experience, and that is why we see the rise of mobile apps. However, this does not mean that consumers like to download a mobile app.

‘91% of consumers dislike installing an App in order to do business.’

Source: Market Study: Mobile Customer Experience Issues by heady.io

The alternative is for businesses to consider using messaging apps, which are ubiquitous, accepted, and ready for business. Engaging customers through messaging is called conversational commerce and is a $25.1 billion market in 2023 according to Juniper Research. Statista provide a great report on the increasing use of messaging in business.  

‘81% message businesses to ask about products or services.

74% message businesses to make a purchase.

75% message businesses to get support.’

Messaging Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, iMessage, Telegram, Instagram etc. are all offering a flavour of business to customer messaging solutions. The Meta messaging suite (WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook) are the most advanced in their business offering.  Given WhatsApp is the most dominant Messaging App (2B+ global users) it is the most advanced in offering business solutions.


What is the WhatsApp Business App? 

When most people think of WhatsApp, they think of most common consumer WhatsApp that is on 2B+ phones (mobile client) and computers (desktop client) worldwide.  

Here are the three flavours of WhatsApp available.

  • WhatsApp (consumer App). This the most common app that we all use for person to person/group chat.
  • WhatsApp (business app). This looks and feels like the consumer app but is meant for a small business and provides some additional features (business profile, catalogue, cart, broadcast, quick responses).  
  • WhatsApp business platform or API (Application Programming Interface). This requires a development team or a service (like Payemoji) to use. It offers increased scale, automation, and customizations on WhatsApp and ultimately OMNI Channel (FB, iMessage etc.)      
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Figure WhatsApp different Flavours

WhatsApp business app is a free to download and use mobile app with several features for businesses. Here are the main features of WhatsApp business app.

  1. Mobile and Desktop Clients: You can have WhatsApp consumer app and WhatsApp business app on your phone. You can also associate a desktop client with your mobile app. These clients are all associated with your business phone number.
  1. Business Profile: This is like your contact information, except for a business. Your business profile shows information about your business, such as your business name, business description, address, business hours, and business category.
  1. Welcome and away greetings: You can setup an automatic welcome message to new customers when they start a conversation with your business e.g., ‘Welcome to Joe’s coffee shop’. You can also setup automatic away messages e.g., ‘hi, I am out to lunch, will be back at 2pm’.  
  1. Quick Replies: You can create preconfigured messages which you frequently send to respond to common questions e.g., ‘our daily specials are soup and sandwich for £5’.
  1. Label Chats / Contacts: You can manually label contacts and conversations to make it easier to filter e.g., New Customer, Repeat Customer, VIP Customer.  
  1. Catalogues: WhatsApp business app users can share their products and services with customers by creating a catalogue, which is displayed on their business profile. You can share Up to 500 products, Price (only certain countries), Description, Website link and Product code.
  1. Cart: Customers place orders through the cart feature. The cart provides a way for your customers to begin the order process. Customers can access their cart by tapping the Cart icon in the catalogue menu. Note however as there are no payments available in most markets, payments will have to be done separately e.g., request a Paypal payment.
  1. Engagement with Customers: There are multiple ways to engage customers.
  • Share your mobile number for your business. Not WhatsApp Business App requires a mobile subscription and uses your WhatsApp business number.
  • QR Code: You can share a QR code for your business.
  • In social media like Facebook, you can add your WhatsApp business number.  
  • Pay for ‘click to WhatsApp’ ads on Facebook and Instagram.

What is the WhatsApp Business Platform / API? 

The WhatsApp business platform, which is also known as WhatsApp business API (Application Programming Interface) is for larger businesses and organizations that would like to engage with their customers at scale, 24x7, customized workflows and can integrate into 3rd party software and systems. The WhatsApp business platform allows businesses to connect with customers at scale to a message chatbot or thousands of staff through a unified inbox. Through integration to third-party systems, you can automate any employee or customer workflow, integrate to CRMs for lead generation, marketing automation, employee onboarding / recruiting or selling products through eCommerce.  

Unlike the WhatsApp business app which can be downloaded from the Appstore or Play store and start engaging with customers 1:1 relatively quickly. To use the WhatsApp business platform will typically take 3-5 days to setup if using a service such as Payemoji or much longer if you are going to get a development team to integrate into the API. However, the scale benefits of allowing a platform and/or all your staff to engage with your customers with a brilliant customer experience are worth the additional efforts for larger businesses.  

Everything you can do on WhatsApp business app, you can do (with development or a service) with WhatsApp business platform.  Here are the additional feature capabilities with WhatsApp business platform:

  • Use virtual mobile number(s) instead of your business number. This allows you to have different numbers for different departments and different locations e.g., UK, Ireland, USA, HR, sales etc.  
  • Verified badge with business profile so customers know they are talking to real business.
  • Customized templated messages with images, required for a message chatbot.
  • Click call-to-action buttons with Quick replies or lists.  
  • Automate any customer or employee workflow at scale.
  • Integration into any third-party systems including AI chatbots like Chatbot, your CRMs, contact centres or appointment booking systems.
  • Full eCommerce services with digital payments, with no restrictions to 500 products
  • Integrate into a Unified Inbox where all your staff can see all conversations, across OMNI channel (WhatsApp, FB messenger, Instagram, SMS etc.) and respond as needed.


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Figure: Customized templates and lists, quick reply to CTA buttons with WhatsApp business platform

Comparison of features  - WhatsApp Business App vs. WhatsApp Business Platform

Let’s now provide a side-by-side comparison of WhatsApp business app vs. WhatsApp business platform. Note again that WhatsApp business platform requires a service or development to get these capabilities.


WhatsApp business app

WhatsApp business platform

Target Business

Small Business

Small to Large Business, Public Sector, Community Organization

Primary Use

1:1 communication

Many to many communications, 24x7 message chatbots, integrations to 3rd parties, customized workflows

Time to setup

Minutes to few hours

3- 5 business days, Integrations can take longer and require dev.

Verified Badge   


Yes (must apply)

Customer Client

WhatsApp (consumer) Mobile App, Desktop Client

Business Client

WhatsApp (business) Mobile App, Desktop Client

Shared Inbox provided by WhatsApp business platform Service.

Business Profile

Business, such as your business name, business description, address, business hours, and business category.

OMNI Channel

WhatsApp Only

WhatsApp and Integrate with other messaging apps (FB messenger, Google, Apple iMessage)




Welcome & Away Greetings



Quick Replies

Yes (manual)

Yes (automated)

Label / Contacts

Yes (manual)

Yes (automated)

eCommerce catalogue

Yes (limited to 500)

Yes (Full eCommerce)

Digital Payments



Business dashboards



Customer Engagement

1 QR Code

1 Mobile Number

Social Media integration

Click to Ad WhatsApp

Many QR Code

Many Mobile Number

Social Media integration

Click to Ad WhatsApp

Website Widgets



Yes (CRMs, Contact Centres, payments, eCommerce etc.)

Customized Workflows






Service Examples on WhatsApp Business platforms

There are so many use cases where WhatsApp custom workflows can increase your engagement with customers and employees, and even boost your sales and get new leads. The best way to understand is to show some examples, but keep in mind these workflows can work for almost any use case and any vertical i.e., healthcare, transport, employees, IT, finance, and public sector to name but a few. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on custom workflows (here).  

Here is an example of a Transport Use cases and Reporting Anti-social behaviour.

  • Nearly every train, bus and tram service now have a mobile app or website to book tickets and get information.  
  • These can be problematic for some members of the public that are not as familiar with websites or downloading apps, such as senior citizens. Also, if you don’t use public transport often, there is nothing more frustrating than the App must be updated. But the good news is everyone knows how to message.
  • WhatsApp chatbots are great to allow members of the public to engage with transport services, to buy tickets, check on train times, station locations etc.  
  • Engagement is simple, as a QR code or phone number can shared on signs at stations, bus stops, on trains, buses or trams that make it easy for members of the public to engage. There is no need for any mobile app to be downloaded which will increase engagement.  
  • As an example in Ireland we have had issues of antisocial behaviour in the news of late (see here) so we decided to create a demo on how WhatsApp would be a great tool to report Anti-social behaviour. In this demo a simple workflow will provide the necessary details to report the anti-social behaviour.  

The transport service provider can also follow up with the person through messaging to get more information if needed or in case of serious situations. You can try our demo yourself (WhatsApp ‘Hi’ to +353861802360)  

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Figure: Payemoji WhatsApp demo for reporting anti-social behaviour (WhatsApp ‘Hi’ to +353861802360)  

Payemoji is an OMNI Channel Messaging Service on WhatsApp business platform.

At Payemoji we provide message chatbots (e.g., WhatsApp chatbot) that work across all your businesses digital assets, and we provide custom workflows to engage your customers and your employees.  

Here is a summary of the benefits of offering a Payemoji WhatsApp chatbot to your customers:

  • Automate any workflow: We will work with you to automate any workflow to engage your customers or employees through messaging.
  • Integration into your existing systems: If your back-end systems have an API (Application Programming Interface) our system can be integrated.
  • Provide better live customer service: When a customer tries to chat with an agent on a web chatbot, it takes forever to get a live response. But with a WhatsApp chatbot from Payemoji, your team is notified immediately and can respond through the app.
  • One WhatsApp chatbot for every platform: Web chatbots only work on websites. But with a WhatsApp chatbot, customers can reach you through Instagram, Facebook, your website, and more.
  • Conversations never disappear: The conversation history is always there—so you never miss a beat.
  • Every employee (that you want to) sees every chat: A shared inbox means you can see all conversations between your chatbots and customers. Plus, employees can respond directly to customers.
  • Customize any response: Hours, directions, locations, newsletter, orders—Payemoji can customize automated responses for any query.    
  • Local WhatsApp number(s) for your business: Payemoji sets up a virtual number for your business / organizations. We can provide a single number for the business, or additional numbers for different use cases e.g., IT support, HR, sales etc.

Sounds Interesting – Get in touch now.

We would love to chat with you about you about how Payemoji can help your business to create custom workflows to engage with your customers or employees. Get in touch with us at sales@payemoji.com and we will schedule a call.

So go ahead and join the conversation by taking advantage of the 23 hours that consumers spend per week on their Messaging Apps and use that to grow your Business.

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