The API is launching to allow businesses to respond to customer messages for free for up to 24 hours. After the 24-hour point passes, businesses will be charged a fixed rate by country per message sent thereafter. Messages will then each cost between $0.05 and $0.9.
Companies will be able to provide data and services such as delivery dates to customers via the new platform. As of now, businesses will only be able to communicate with users who have made first contact.
WhatsApp first announced it would eventually be charging for an enterprise solution when it launched its free-to-use WhatsApp for Business app. This app still remains free for all replies, even ones that arrive late, and is mostly used by SMEs.
WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19bn, but only with this feature could it become a solid source of revenue for the social media giant. The Business API could be viewed as a more cost-effective alternative to customer service call centres, allowing customers to obtain swift responses without the need to make a phone call.
In terms of privacy, WhatsApp said all messages between users and businesses will be end-to-end encrypted. According to The Wall Street Journal, businesses will be allowed store copies of the messages elsewhere in a decrypted state.
An example of WhatsApp for Business API opening up is its integration with popular customer service and support ticketing service Zendesk. This integration will help companies add WhatsApp alongside their business Twitter and Facebook accounts to manage message replies right from the same dashboard. This way, brands will be able to provide real-time customer support to multiple users at the same time.
The company said it has tested the WhatsApp Business API over the past few months with 20 companies, and will be opening it up gradually. So not all organisation will have access to it in one go, but it should be rolled out for all enterprises over the next few months.
Booking.com, Uber and Wish are among the companies already signed up to use the new API.