WhatsApp Chatbots The Ultimate Guide

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By Joren Wouters Updated on

This is the ultimate guide to WhatsApp Chatbots in 2022.

And I will cover everything.

What WhatsApp chatbots are.
What message rules apply on WhatsApp.
How you can create your own WhatsApp Chatbot.

And even more.

So if you're looking to create a WhatsApp chatbot, you'll love this 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

Comply with WhatsApp Message Rules

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

  • User-initiated conversations: when a user starts a conversation with your business. Then, your business has 24 hours to reply to that message
  • Business-initiated conversations: when a business starts a conversation with a user after the “24-hour window” 

If you are only planning to answer user-initiated conversations to your users within 24 hours, then don’t worry, because you won’t break any rules.

But if you want to do more: 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?

You need to use WhatsApp Message Template for that.

WhatsApp Message Templates

If you want to send a message to a user outside the 24-hour window, you need to use a WhatsApp Message Template.

But you can only send a message according to really specific situations, otherwise it is not allowed by WhatsApp.

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 platform

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

There are basically two options:

  • Choose a chatbot builder that has has a direct integration with WhatsApp (such as ManyChat or Landbot)
  • Go with a chatbot builder that has an integration with a WhatsApp Business provider (like Xenioo)

The last option is the most common approach for chatbot builders that offer WhatsApp chatbots. It often implies also extra costs, but you need to pay for the chatbot platform as well as for the WhatsApp business provider.

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

By the way, if you already want to get ahead and compare the different platforms, here is complete chatbot platform comparison table with over 49 chatbot builders.

Create a WhatsApp Chatbot with ManyChat

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

First, go to ManyChat and create your free account:

Create free ManyChat account

Then, follow all the steps I explain in this video:

Get approved for the WhatsApp Business API

This step is optional: because not everyone needs to get approved for the WhatsApp Business API.

If you only want to reply to user-initiated conversations within the 24 hour window, you don’t have to apply for the WhatsApp Business API. You can just use your WhatsApp chatbot and you don’t have to worry about anything.

But, if you want to send business-initiated conversations to 50 unique customers (or more) in a rolling 24-hour period, you need to get approved for the WhatsApp Business API.

Here is a quick cheatsheet to determine if you need to get approved:

whatsapp-when-get-approved

So, if you want tgeapproved with ManyChat ManyChat, then I have a complete video on how you can get approved for the WhatsApp Business API:

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

P.S. If you want a full guide on how you can get approved for the WhatsApp Business API (and not only with ManyChat), check out this post.

Chapter 4: Which chatbot platforms for WhatsApp?

Now you’ve seen how you can create your own chatbot with ManyChat.

But ManyChat 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 costs of your WhatsApp chatbot depend on two things:

  • WhatsApp’s conversation-based pricing model
  • The chatbot platform that you use

Let’s cover them one-by-one.

 

What is conversation-based pricing on WhatsApp?

In February 2022, WhatsApp has released a new pricing model called conversation-based pricing

With this pricing model, you pay per started conversation. There are two types of conversations:

  1. User-initiated conversations: when a user starts a conversation
  2. Business-initiated conversations: when a business starts a conversation outside the 24-hour window

Basically, each time a conversation is started, you need to pay.

The price of a user-initiated conversation is generally lower than a business-initiated conversations and the overall prices differ per country. 

In general, the price for a user-initated conversation is between $0.01 and $0.08 and the price for a business-initiated conversation is between $0.01 and $0.14. The specific prices per country can be found here.

Also, the first 1,000 conversations per month are completely free.

 

WhatsApp Pricing of chatbot builders

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

As said before, some chatbot builders have a direct integration with WhatsApp, such as ManyChat.

While others make an integration with a WhatsApp Business provider, like Xenioo.

Also it is good to know that with chatbot builders like Xenioo, you need to pay twice: you need to pay for the chatbot platform as well as for the WhatsApp Business provider.

First, I will show you the pricing of ManyChat (we used before) and then I show you the pricing of Twilio (most used WhatsApp Business provider).

ManyChat Pricing for WhatsApp chatbots

With ManyChat, you pay per contact. If you only want to use the basic features of ManyChat and stay under 1,000 contacts, you can go with their Free plan.

If this is not enough for you, you can go with their Pro plan, which comes with all features of the platform. This starts at $15 for 500 contacts and increases with the number of contacts you have:

manychat-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 WhatsApp 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, Xenioo, 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:

By the way, if you to easily compare them, here is complete chatbot platform comparison table with over 49 chatbot builders.

Botmother

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Many chatbot elements
  • Put chatbot on 6 channels
  • Built-in live chat
  • Accept payments inside your chatbot

Cons

  • Hard to set up a chatbot
  • Cannot set welcome message
  • Cannot determine default reply
  • Keyword recognition does not work
  • Minimal marketing possibilities
  • Minimal analytics

Botpress

Pros

  • Free open-source platform
  • Easy-to-use visual flow builder
  • Host your chatbot in-house
  • Built-in, advanced AI & NLP
  • Put your chatbot on 8 channels
  • Built-in live chat

 

Cons

  • Hard to set up a chatbot in the beginning
  • No Zapier/Integromat integration
  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • Minimal analytics

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

Crisp

Pros

  • Easy-to-use visual flow builder
  • Built-in AI
  • Can easily translate chatbot to multiple languages
  • Put your chatbot on 6 channels
  • Built-in live chat + iOS/Android app
  • Zapier integration
  • Advanced native website widget

Cons

  • Takes some time to fully understand interface
  • Minimal chatbot elements
  • Cannot send broadcasts and sequences
  • Limited marketing possibilities

Dialogflow

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • One of the best AI & NLP
  • Put your chatbot on 14 channels
  • Free until 180 requests per minute

Cons

  • Not possible to store contact information
  • Cannot use conditions in chatbot flows
  • Doesn’t have a live chat integration
  • Limited marketing possibilities

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

Flow.ai

Pros

  • Easy-to-use visual flow builder
  • A lot of chatbot elements
  • Add custom fields/tags and create user segments
  • Send broadcasts & sequences
  • Easily translate your chatbot to multiple languages
  • Built-in AI Engine
  • Put your chatbot on 10 channels
  • Built-in live chat
  • Zapier integration

Cons

  • No eCommerce integrations
  • Could be a bit expensive for smaller companies
  • Not possible to automatically reply to Facebook comments

Freshchat

Pros

  • Easy-to-use visual flow builder
  • Built-in live chat
  • Easily translate your chatbot
  • Built-in AI
  • Put your chatbot on 4 channels
  • Advanced analytics

Cons

  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • Cannot use conditions
  • Minimal chatbot elements

Landbot

Pros

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

Cons

  • Not possible to add tags to users and make user segments
  • Limited marketing possibilities on Facebook

ManyChat

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface in which you make a chatbot with their Visual Flow Builder
  • Many chatbot elements you can use to build your chatbot
  • It’s simple to attract people to your chatbot using their Growth Tools
  • Possible to assign attributes and tags to users to segment them
  • Support multiple channels: Website, Facebook Messenger, Email and SMS
  • Built-in live chat integration (with iOS and Android app)
  • Direct integrations with Zapier, Integromat & Google Sheets
  • You can make and share chatbot templates, so you can make your chatbot faster

Cons

  • The SMS channel only supports 9 countries
  • Only possible to have a Facebook Messenger-like widget on your website
  • No AI built-in the software

Pandorabots

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Open source chatbot builder
  • Built-in AI
  • Put chatbot on 8 channels
  • Built-in live chat
  • Easily copy and share chatbot flows

Cons

  • Need to code to build a good chatbot
  • Cannot store custom fields
  • Livechat only available on web chat and landing page
  • Need to manually activate live chat per conversation
  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • 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 native website widget
  • 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

Solvemate

Pros

  • Sophisticated dynamic decision tree algorithm
  • Put your chatbot on 3 channels
  • Live chat integrations

Cons

  • Interface hard to use and not easy to understand
  • For many features, reliant on the company
  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • Expensive pricing
  • Basic 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

Trengo

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Add custom fields and tags
  • Easily translatable to multiple languages
  • Dialogflow integration
  • Supports 10 different channels
  • Built-in live chat
  • One of the best native website widgets ever seen

Cons

  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • Minimal analytics
  • No templates

Ubisend

Pros

  • Easy-to-use visual flow builder
  • Lots of validation options
  • AI integrations with DialogFlow, Wit.ai & IBM
  • Supports 5 channels
  • Built-in live chat
  • Advanced analytics

Cons

  • Cannot send a broadcast to part of your audience
  • No sequences
  • Limited marketing possibilities
  • No templates

Xenioo

Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Many advanced chatbot elements
  • You can add custom fields and tags
  • Advanced AI & NLP
  • Put your chatbot on 14 different channels
  • Native website widget
  • Built-in live chat
  • Decent pricing

Cons

  • Can take some time before you understand the interface
  • Minimal analytics

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.

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Comments (20)

  1. Rijwanul Hoque

    Awesome step by step explanation.

    1. Joren Wouters

      Thank you, Rijwanul 🙂

    2. Julius

      Where does the chatbot get the answers to questions from my clients in the chat bot?

      ie; how does it get the data from my database to respond to my clients needs/inquiries?

      That has not been clear to me in this article.

      1. Joren Wouters

        Hey Julius! Generally speaking, this can be performed in multiple ways. If you already have a database with questions and answers, you can connect your chatbot to that database using an API or an integration platform, like Integromat. If that’s not the case, you can simply set the questions and answers in the chatbot builder itself.

  2. James Wong

    This is the BEST Review ever!! Thanks Man!

    1. Joren Wouters

      Thank you!

    2. Anna

      Hey this is a great guide!
      A quick question, would it be doable to have the same chatbot running on different whatsapp phone numbers?

      I’m looking to build a multilanguage chatbot for whatsapp for different stores in Europe, so would like to build one with translation capabilities but also have it running in different local telephone numbers.

      How would you tackle that?

      1. Anna

        Adding to my comment…The reason why I’m looking at different local phone numbers is because the b2c brand of the store differs across countries..

      2. Joren Wouters

        Hey Anna!

        I think this would be possible, but I think you would need to manually copy your chatbot flows (and settings) to multiple accounts. Then, each account is its own phone number. It is possible, but it would also lead to higher maintenance costs, because every time you change your chatbot, you need to do it on multiple accounts.

        Does this help?

  3. Carl

    Great guide. Is it possible to save the replies and pictures taken into a sql database to be used?

    1. Joren Wouters

      I think it is, but then you would need to create a custom integration with your SQL Database.

  4. Rehaan

    there’s another software like Twilio called AIsensy , please give a review about it also it’s pricing is reasonable that’s what I’ve found good in it

    1. Joren Wouters

      Thanks, I will look into that!

  5. Rehaan

    Hey joren , I needed to know if we could use buttons in a WhatsApp Chatbot I.e. in which we can put an option like a yes or no and the user clicks on the option and the input is given . This helps to make a hasle free Chatbot as there is no problem with keyword triggering and all that

    1. Joren Wouters

      Hey Rehaan! Currently, it is not possible to use buttons on WhatsApp. So your only way to do this is by using keyword triggers.

  6. rehaan

    Actually I’ve seen a company in India using buttons . Their name is lenskart , go to their official WhatsApp number and check out how their bot is .

    1. Joren Wouters

      Yes, I’ve just checked it out and found that WhatsApp recently did a release in which it is possible to use buttons in your WhatsApp chatbot. But not all chatbot builders are providing this functionality yet…

  7. Julio

    some chatbot builders have a “direct integration” with WhatsApp, such as ManyChat.

    But ManyChat site says WhatsApp (beta)

    1. Joren Wouters

      Hey Julio! Yes, that’s true, ManyChat’s WhatsApp integration is currently in beta and not all accounts can use it right now. But almost all accounts can access it and if you don’t have access you can just contact ManyChat support.

      1. Julio

        Hi Joren, thanks for your answer!

        What’s the different between WhatsApp integration (not all accounts can “use” it ) and all accounts can “access” it. I mean, What’s the different between “use” it and “access” it?

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