WhatsApp Chatbots The Ultimate Guide

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By Joren Wouters Updated on

This is the ultimate guide to WhatsApp Chatbots in 2020.

And I will cover everything.

What WhatsApp chatbots are.
What message rules apply on WhatsApp.
How you can build a WhatsApp Chatbot.

And even more.

So if you're looking to use WhatsApp chatbots in your marketing, you'll love this new guide.

whatsapp-chatbots

Chapter 1: Intro to WhatsApp Chatbots

In this first chapter, I will provide an intro to WhatsApp Chatbots. So:

Let's dive in.

intro-whatsapp-chatbots

What is a WhatsApp chatbot?

A WhatsApp chatbot is an automated conversation partner on WhatsApp.

It facilitates a conversation between a person and a computer.

Usually, you will have a conversation with another person on WhatsApp (for example, one of your friends), but with chatbots, you are talking to a computer, not a human.

WhatsApp Chatbot Example

Now a real-life example: the KLM WhatsApp Chatbot.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of the biggest airlines in the world. They have over 30.000 employees and serve passengers and cargo to 145 destinations. 

I’m originally from the Netherlands, so I really like the fact that KLM was the first airline with a WhatsApp chatbot.

KLM used the chatbot to send booking information, check-in notifications, boarding passes and flight status updates. Besides that, users could ask KLM questions in 10 different languages:

Why use WhatsApp Chatbots?

WhatsApp is one of the biggest messaging apps in the world, with over 2 billion users around the globe. It is available in more than 180 countries and 60 different languages.

Moreover, 1.6 billion WhatsApp users access the app on a monthly basis.

whatsapp-users

And this leads to 65 billion WhatsApp messages sent every day.

whatsapp-messages

Overwhelming, right?

So basically, you should use WhatsApp because your customers are already there, they are just waiting for you to send them a message. Besides that, you can reach any potential client on WhatsApp, because it is used by so many users all over the world.

Now I hear you thinking “Okay, I should use WhatsApp. But why use a chatbot?”

Good one.

In fact, I made a complete post about why you should use chatbots, but here are the ten most important reasons:

  1. Save time and money on customer service
  2. Boost your sales
  3. Get more leads
  4. Reply in seconds, instead of days
  5. 24/7 available, everywhere
  6. Send real-time, tailored messages to customers
  7. Messenger apps (like WhatsApp) become more popular
  8. People are open to using chatbots
  9. You can use chatbots internally in your company
  10. Stand out from the crowd (aka, not many businesses use chatbots yet)

How does a WhatsApp Chatbot work?

A WhatsApp chatbot works really simple.

Someone can just send a message to the WhatsApp number of a certain business and the chatbot will try to answer that message, just like any normal person would do.

I will illustrate this by giving an example:

  1. A user starts a conversation with a WhatsApp chatbot of a wine company. The user asks “What red wine do you recommend?”
  2. The chatbot understands this message and recognizes the words “red wine” and “recommend”
  3. Based on those recognized words, the chatbot will look in the wine database for “recommended red wines”
  4. Finally, the chatbot will send a message back with all the recommended red wines in the wine database.

Pretty simple, right?

“But what about KLM? Nobody sent them a message and they automatically send someone’s boarding pass?”

That’s right. It’s also possible that the chatbot starts the conversation with the user. But this is only allowed in certain situations. We will talk more about that in the next chapter 😉

Chapter 2: WhatsApp Message Rules

Unfortunately, you can't just send any message to anyone with your WhatsApp chatbot.

There are certain rules that you must follow.

Why is this? So that businesses don't spam everyone on WhatsApp (which is really anoying).

So, what are these rules?

Let's jump right in.

whatsapp-message-rules

Intro to WhatsApp Message Rules

Basically, there are two kinds of conversations with WhatsApp Chatbots:

  1. The user starts the conversation with the chatbot – WhatsApp calls this “Customer Care”
  2. The chatbot starts the conversation with the user – This is called WhatsApp Message Templates or WhatsApp Notifications

If you are only planning to provide Customer Care to your users, then don’t worry, because you won’t break any rules.

But if you want to do more, I recommend to read on.

So, every time a user sends a message to your WhatsApp chatbot, a 24-hour window will open. Within this 24-hour window, you can send any message to the user, with absolutely no constraints.

Please note that this 24-hour window will reopen, every time the user sends a message. Take this example:

  • User sends message to chatbot *24-hour window will open*
  • User says nothing for 8 hours *There are 16 hours left in the 24-hour window*
  • After 8 hours, the user sends another message *24-hour window will re-open*

whatsapp-24-hour-window

By the way, these message inside the 24-hour window are also called “Session Messages”.

But what about messages outside the 24-hour window?

WhatsApp uses Message Templates/Notifications for that.

WhatsApp Message Templates / Notifications

You can use WhatsApp Message Templates to send messages to users outside the 24-hour window.

But you can only send these message templates in really specific situations.

In total, there are 11 situations and I will go by them one-by-one.

Account update

You can use this category to send messages to users when their account is updated or changed. For example, you can inform customers when they have successfully created an account on your webshop. 

Alert update

Send important updates or news to customers.

This category is more for general updates to users. For example, you can send an update to a user if he ordered a product at your webshop.

Appointment Update

The Appointment Update is used to send confirmations, reminders or other updates to users about their appointments:

whatsapp-reservation-message-template
Source: Trengo

Auto-Reply

You can use this category to send auto-replies to customers when your business isn’t online or available to respond right away.

To be honest, most business with WhatsApp chatbots don’t use this feature, because a chatbot is 24/7 available and can always respond.

Issue Resolution

With the Issue Resolution category, you can respond to questions or concerns from users about your business.

For example, when your website or service isn’t online at the moment, you can inform users that you are working on a resolution to solve the issue.

Payment Update

The Payment Update is meant to send messages to customers about their payment. For example, you can send a message when the payment has been succesfully received.

Personal Finance Update

You can use the Personal Finance Update to send messages to customers about their personal finances. This is especially useful for insurance organizations or financial institutions.

Reservation Update

This one is quite similar to the Appointment Update.

With the Reservation Update, you can send confirmations, reminders or other updates to users about their reservations.

Shipping Update

You can use the Shipping Update to send updates to customers about shipping their products. For example, you can send “You will receive your products within 24 hours.”

Ticket Update

This can be used to send ticketing information or updates to customers. It is especially useful if you solved a ticket outside the 24-hour window.

Transportation Update

This template is used for sending transportation information or updates to customers. For example, you could send a message when a flight has been delayed (Exactly what KLM used!)

Chapter 3: How to create a chatbot on WhatsApp

Now, we know the basics of WhatsApp Chatbots and the rules we need to follow in order to build one.

So, we got everything to build a WhatsApp chatbot ourselves.

Let’s dive in.

how-to-create-whatsapp-chatbot

Choose your chatbot software

The first thing you need to do, is choose the chatbot software you are going to use to build your WhatsApp chatbot.

There are basically two options:

  • Choose a chatbot builder that has WhatsApp inside their platform (such as Landbot)
  • Go with a chatbot builder that has an integration with Twilio (like SilFer Bots)

The last option is the most common approach for chatbot builders that offer WhatsApp chatbots.

In the next chapter, I will show you all the different chatbot software companies that offer WhatsApp Chatbots, so stay tuned.

Apply for the WhatsApp Business API

After you’ve chosen a chatbot builder, you need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API.

The WhatsApp Business API is the system a WhatsApp chatbot uses to send messages to its users. But not everyone has access to this API, so you need to apply for it.

The reason why you need to choose your chatbot software first, is because the application for the WhatsApp Business API differs per chatbot software.

For example, if you use Twilio, you need to fill in the form on the Twilio website:

twilio-whatsapp-business-api

 

But, if you would code the chatbot yourself, you can also apply for the WhatsApp Business API through Facebook:

facebook-whatsapp-business-api

Once you have filled in the form to apply for the WhatsApp Business API, WhatsApp takes between 5 and 15 working days to handle your application.

Note: Sometimes, you also need a phone number. With some chatbot builders (such as Landbot), you can just use your business number for your WhatsApp Chatbot. But with some other builders, they determine the number for you. So, this also differs per chatbot builders.

Build a WhatsApp Chatbot with Landbot

To show how simple it is to build your own WhatsApp chatbot, I am going to build one with Landbot.

First, go to Landbot and click on Sign up to get a free account:

landbot-sign-up

Once you’ve created your account, log in and click on Build a chatbot:

landbot-build-whatsapp-chatbot

Then, choose for “Messenger and WhatsApp” as channels for your chatbot:

landbot-whatsapp-channel

I then quickly made a small flow inside Landbot using their Visual Flow Builder:

landbot-whatsapp-chatbot-flow

Now, we’ve created a small chatbot inside Landbot.

So, how are we going to use this in WhatsApp?

First, we need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API through Landbot (they also have their own form), but this takes 5-15 workdays.

In the meantime, we can use WhatsApp Testing of Landbot (other chatbot builders have similar features) that allow us to test our chatbot in WhatsApp (before we are approved to use the WhatsApp Business API).

To do this, go to Channels –> WhatsApp Testing and click on Create new channel:

landbot-whatsapp-testing

Then, fill in your Channel Name, your own WhatsApp Number, link the chatbot you just created and click on Confirm:

landbot-whatsapp-testing-channel

Now, Landbot automatically sends you a message and you can test your chatbot inside WhatsApp!

This is how my WhatsApp chatbot looks:

example-whatsapp-chatbot

Awesome, right?

Apply for Message Templates (Optional)

This last step is optional.

If you only want to give answers to users’ questions, you don’t need to apply for Message Templates.

But, if you want to start the conversation with your user outside the 24-hour window, you need to apply for Message Templates.

Note: You can only apply for Message Templates if you have been approved for the WhatsApp Business API.

And again, how to do this differs per chatbot software.

But here’s how to do it in Landbot.

Go to Channels –> Request new HSM:

landbot-request-template

Then, you will be taken to their HSM Template Request chatbot that will ask the necessary questions and will do the Message Template request for you:

landbot-template-request-bot

If it gets approved, this is how it could like in Landbot:

whatsapp-message-template-example

Chapter 4: Which chatbot software for WhatsApp?

Now we’ve seen how you can build a chatbot ourselves with Landbot.

But Landbot is not the only chatbot builder for WhatsApp out there.

So, which chatbot builders can you use to build your WhatApp chatbot?

And how much does a WhatsApp chatbot cost?

whatsapp-chatbot-builders

How much does a WhatsApp chatbot cost?

The pricing of your WhatsApp chatbot depends on the chatbot software that you use.

As said before, some chatbot builders use a built-in WhatsApp integration, such as Landbot.

While others make an integration with Twilio, like SilFer Bots.

Because Twilio is the most common option, we first will go over their pricing.

Twilio pricing for WhatsApp Chatbots

For messages inside the 24-hour window, you will need to pay $0.005 per message. This is a flat fee per sent Twilio message.

The pricing of Message Templates is different. This consists of a WhatsApp Fee and a Twilio fee:

twilio-whatsapp-notification-pricing

Moreover, if you send more messages with WhatsApp, you also get a discount on that WhatsApp fee:

whatsapp-template-volume-discounts

So, let’s say we want to send 20.000 messages inside the 24-hour window and 5.000 messages using Message Templates, this would result in:

20.000 * 0.005 = $100
5.000 * 0.0135 =  $67.50

So, in total $167.50 for sending 25.000 messages in a month.

From the chatbot builders below, SilFer Bots, Quriobot and SnatchBot are using Twilio to create WhatsApp Chatbots.

 

Cliengo Pricing for WhatsApp chatbots

Cliengo offers WhatsApp from their Premium plan, which is $90 per month. If you want to use WhatsApp with this plan, you also need to pay an additional cost.

Unfortunately, they don’t tell on their website what that cost is…

Engati Pricing for WhatsApp chatbots

Engati offers WhatsApp from their Enterprise WhatsApp Basic plan, which is $180 per month and comes with 10.000 interactions:

engati-whatsapp-pricing

Landbot Pricing for WhatsApp chatbots

Landbot provides a WhatsApp integration from the Pro plan, which would cost €150 per month and includes 500 chats per month.

They also provide a Business Plan for €600 per month, which comes with 5000 chats per month.

Tars pricing for WhatsApp chatbots

Tars has a Professional plan that includes 5 chatbots and 1000 chats per month for $99.

WhatsApp Chatbot Builders

Here is a list of chatbot builders that offer WhatsApp as a channel:

Botsociety

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Good overview of conversation with flowchart
  • Integrations with DialogFlow and Rasa

Cons

  • No live chat
  • No marketing possibilities
  • No analytics
  • Not possible to collect user data
  • Cannot use conditions in chatbot flows

Cliengo

Pros

  • Built-in AI Engine
  • You can put a chatbot on your website, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
  • Built-in live chat (Cliengo Live)
  • Zapier integration
  • Reasonable pricing

Cons

  • You cannot create custom chatbot flows, you can only give answers to questions
  • You only have two chatbot elements
  • It is not possible to use custom fields or tags
  • Cannot send broadcasts and sequences
  • Not possible to use conditions in your chatbot flows
  • There are limited marketing possibilities
  • Minimal analytics

Engati

Pros

  • Easy-to-use Visual Flow Builder
  • Many chatbot elements
  • Add custom fields to users and segment them
  • Built-in AI & NLP
  • Supports 11 different channels to put your chatbot on
  • Built-in live chat
  • Direct integration with Zapier, Google Calendar & Google Sheets
  • Good analytics

Cons

  • Limited marketing tools
  • Could become expensive if you want all the features
  • No eCommerce integrations

Landbot

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface in which you make a chatbot with their Visual Flow Builder
  • Support multiple channels: Website, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Slack
  • Extremely good builder for chatbots on landing pages

Cons

  • Not possible to add tags to users and make user segments
  • No AI built-in the software
  • Minimal analytics

Quriobot

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Various chatbot elements
  • Use conditions
  • Translate chatbot to different languages
  • Live chat integration
  • Zapier & Integromat integration
  • Advanced website widget

 

Cons

  • Users cannot use free text input
  • Cannot send broadcasts or sequences
  • Cannot set tags and custom fields

SilFer Bots

Pros

  • Easy to make your chatbot with the Visual Flow Builder
  • Many chatbot elements you can use to make your chatbot
  • Assign custom fields and tags to your users, so that you can segment them
  • Put your chatbot on 4 channels
  • Great eCommerce integrations with Shopify & WooCommerce
  • Easy to attract users by using the Growth Tools
  • Built-in live chat
  • AI built-in the software and a DialogFlow integration (if you want more capabilities)
  • Direct integrations with Zapier, Integromat and Google Sheets

Cons

  • Not possible to have a website widget without having to log in at Facebook first
  • Minimal analytics, but enough to improve your chatbot

SnatchBot

Pros

  • You can add custom fields to your users
  • Possible to send broadcasts
  • Use conditions in your chatbot flows
  • Built-in AI & NLP
  • You can put your chatbot on 10 different channels
  • Built-in live chat
  • Zapier integration
  • You can receive payments within your chatbot
  • Low pricing

Cons

  • Interface is hard to use and takes some time to understand it
  • Cannot send sequences to your users
  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • Minimal analytics

Tars

Pros

  • Easy-to-use Visual Flow Builder
  • Advanced native website widget
  • Can put a chatbot on 2 channels: Websites and WhatsApp

Cons

  • Cannot add custom fields to users
  • Not possible to send broadcasts
  • You cannot send sequences
  • It is not possible to recognize keywords and provide a good answer
  • No support for live chat

Xenioo

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Many advanced chatbot elements
  • You can add custom fields and tags
  • Advanced AI & NLP
  • Put your chatbot on 9 different channels
  • Native website widget
  • Built-in live chat
  • Decent pricing

Cons

  • Takes some time before you understand the interface
  • Minimal analytics
  • Not compliant with the latest Facebook policies

Now It's Your Turn

So that’s how you can use WhatsApp chatbots in your marketing.

Now I want to turn it over to you: Are you going to create a WhatsApp Chatbot? 

Or are you already using one?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.

Comments (4)

  1. Rijwanul Hoque

    Awesome step by step explanation.

    1. Joren Wouters

      Thank you, Rijwanul 🙂

  2. James Wong

    This is the BEST Review ever!! Thanks Man!

    1. Joren Wouters

      Thank you!

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