Facebook has introduced the WhatsApp Business API. The API appears to serve at least one step in Facebook's longer term strategy to both monetize its messaging platforms, and deliver a set of tools directly aimed at streamlining business communications. The API comes after a successful launch and growth of the WhatsApp Business app, and will include similar features through programmatic access.
The company is rolling out the API in a phased approach. The first customers have already integrated API and launched solutions. To see how specific businesses have leveraged WhatsApp's business features, check out the customer stories site.
The Business API enables communication between customers and a business in three specific categories. Information request allows customers to provide their mobile number (through website, app, or in store) and the business can automatically provide information when available. (e.g. shipping confirmation, boarding pass, etc.). Second, customers will start seeing click-to-chat buttons on websites and Facebook ads that will allow customers to quickly and directly message a business. Finally, for businesses that provide real-time support, WhatsApp will now act as a real-time customer service platform where customers can get help and problem resolution directly through WhatsApp.
For those who want to get started, apply for access through the Facebook business site. Facebook has published technical requirements and FAQs to address common questions. Facebook has not yet announced when it plans to make the API widely available, but stay tuned for more information.