Frequently, new-age technologies emerge and disrupt the long-held dominance of their predecessors. In the realm of telecommunication, It nearly took a century for voice communication to evolve into text messaging. However, within just a decade, WhatsApp has unseated SMS from its pole position, and there are multiple compelling reasons for this shift. SMS Introduced in the 1980s, It quickly gained worldwide popularity as a widely used form of text messaging for cellphone users. However, over time, it has been either replaced or supplemented by instant messaging applications like WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is a comprehensive messaging application that enables users to exchange text messages, voice messages, make voice and video calls, share media and documents, and much more. Launched in 2009, WhatsApp has emerged as one of the most extensively used messaging apps globally, boasting over 2.24 billion active users as of 2023.
In the contemporary landscape, who frequently dispatches SMS apart from service providers transmitting one-time passwords or routine birthday greetings?To say that SMS has taken a step back as a communication channel would be an understatement. It now merely exists as a backup plan for when instant messaging is unavailable, which is a rare occurrence, given the staggering 99.99% uptime enjoyed by instant messaging services.
Which communication option is most suitable for businesses?
WhatsApp has a widespread presence in most countries worldwide, albeit with a few exceptions. To utilise WhatsApp, users simply require a mobile phone with an active phone number and an internet connection.
While the standard WhatsApp application is ideal for personal communication, there are specific offerings tailored for businesses. The WhatsApp Business App, for instance, is a free standalone application designed to enable small businesses to directly interact with their customers through the platform.
On the other hand, the WhatsApp API serves as a tool for larger businesses to integrate WhatsApp messaging into their existing software systems. Messaging via SMS and the WhatsApp API share some similarities, but they also possess distinct differences, which we will explore in the following section.
One of WhatsApp’s key advantages is its cost-effectiveness – it’s completely free. Unlike SMS, which often incurs high charges in many regions, WhatsApp messaging requires only a working data connection or Wi-Fi connectivity. The bandwidth used by WhatsApp messages is minimal, sparing users from expensive carrier charges associated with traditional SMS.
While certain carrier plans may offer SMS at a lower cost or as a free service, WhatsApp’s widespread free usage across various platforms is a significant driving force. As a result, millions of users flock to the app, sending billions of messages on a daily basis. The cost factor undoubtedly contributes to WhatsApp’s popularity and its triumph over SMS as the preferred communication medium.
Because of its conversational nature, WhatsApp excels in generating superior customer engagement compared to SMS. In SMS messaging, interactions are typically one-way and limited, lacking the interactive element.SMS management relied on the default app provided by device manufacturers, while video calling necessitated separate applications like Skype, Zoom, Viber, and the like. However, WhatsApp has seamlessly integrated text messaging, voice calls, video calls, and even voice notes within a single chat interface. The convenience is further amplified by the fact that users don’t need multiple accounts to access these features. A solitary user account, linked to a phone number, suffices for both video and voice calls. Notably, there’s no requirement for call credits or the hassle of maintaining balances. It enables more dynamic and engaging conversations with customers.
Let’s start by comparing the character limits of SMS and WhatsApp. SMS messages are confined to a mere 160 characters, a stark contrast to WhatsApp’s expansive 65,536-character capacity.
But there’s more to consider. Utilizing just one emoji in a standard SMS can shrink the character count from 160 to a mere 70. Messages exceeding this threshold are divided into multiple parts, incurring extra charges.
Unlike WhatsApp, SMS lacks support for images or any rich content. For multimedia, you’d have to resort to costlier MMS. Additionally, SMS limitations vary based on the designated number, making it unclear which option truly prevails for businesses.
SMS notifications might also be subject to carrier filtering, potentially preventing them from reaching recipients. Determining whether an SMS notification has been filtered can often be uncertain.
The provided image underscores the disparities between WhatsApp and SMS in terms of limitations. WhatsApp proves significantly less restrictive and boasts superior delivery rates when contrasted with SMS.
Incorporating cross-border factors, SMS notifications might fail to reach international customers. Furthermore, short code numbers confine notifications to local delivery, while alphanumeric IDs cannot receive customer responses. Long codes, in some countries, face restrictions on sending marketing SMS. Remarkably, WhatsApp avoids all these constraints and maintains an almost perfect delivery rate.
In essence, WhatsApp messages are assured of reaching recipients, provided adherence to WhatsApp’s Business and Commerce policies.
In terms of pricing, SMS is typically more costly than WhatsApp.
To begin, businesses need to acquire an SMS number from a provider. Some number types don’t entail setup or monthly fees. However, this isn’t the case for shortcodes, a favoured option for businesses. Additionally, SMS providers levy charges per SMS or per message bundle, which can be higher for numbers with higher deliverability rates.
Moving on to the WhatsApp Business API, businesses encounter three distinct costs:
- WhatsApp API access
- Messaging inbox expenses
- WhatsApp conversation charges
For WhatsApp API access, businesses can choose between WhatsApp On-premises API and WhatsApp Cloud API. The former is accessible via WhatsApp partners and often involves setup fees, hosting fees, and markups per message.
Conversely, WhatsApp Cloud API is available directly through Meta or select WhatsApp partners like respond.io. It’s a preferred choice for businesses seeking cost-efficient access to WhatsApp API and swift updates for their WhatsApp Business Accounts.
The provided image illustrates the pricing distinctions between SMS and WhatsApp. In the comparison of WhatsApp vs SMS pricing, WhatsApp generally emerges as the more economical option, especially with the assistance of a reliable Business Solution Provider (BSP).
Furthermore, WhatsApp charges businesses per 24-hour conversation, with varying rates for its four conversation categories. The silver lining is that each WhatsApp Business Account receives 1,000 free service or user-initiated conversations monthly.
Lastly, since WhatsApp API lacks a front-end interface, you’ll need a messaging inbox to both receive and respond to customer messages. If you’re seeking a WhatsApp partner offering feature-rich messaging software, consider options like Authkey.io.
Notifications, Sales, Support and Marketing
Traditionally, SMS has found its niche in notifications and marketing, while WhatsApp has gradually emerged as a versatile contender across various use cases in countries where it enjoys popularity.
In the following section, we will delve into the efficacy of both channels for notifications, sales, support, and marketing.
The benefits of using WhatsApp for notifications extend to interactive automated messages, a feature not available with SMS. This functionality opens doors to new possibilities; for instance, businesses can send notifications with button menus, allowing customers to choose between confirming a package delivery or rescheduling it.
Delivery reliability is crucial for notifications carrying vital information. Ensuring that messages reach their destination is paramount to customer satisfaction. With WhatsApp’s elevated delivery rate, you can be confident that your messages will consistently reach their intended recipients.
SMS lacks the personal touch for effective sales and can be costly. WhatsApp excels as a sales channel: it allows fluid conversations, offers template messages for proactive sales without extra charges, and supports rich media product showcasing. This image demonstrates the advantages of WhatsApp over SMS for sales, including free user-initiated messaging, interactivity, and reliable delivery and reading receipts.
Advantages of Utilizing WhatsApp for Sales
WhatsApp’s incorporation of rich media empowers businesses to effectively showcase their products and services, enhancing the engagement and interactivity of sales conversations. This, in turn, leads to heightened sales conversion rates.
Benefiting from WhatsApp’s conversational dynamic, responses are typically swifter, enabling agents to seize customer interest in its prime.
In the realm of inbound sales, WhatsApp provides customers with diverse entry points to initiate conversations with businesses, including chat links, QR codes, and click-to-chat ads.
Furthermore, WhatsApp’s delivery and read receipts facilitate effective monitoring of sales message impact and customer interaction, offering valuable insights.
The superiority of WhatsApp extends to customer support, as we will elaborate in the following segment.
SMS falls short as an effective customer support channel due to its slow-paced conversations and customer charges per message.
In contrast, WhatsApp facilitates real-time, interactive communication between customers and support agents, expediting issue resolution. The 24-hour service window enables agents to assist customers without incurring excessive costs.
Moreover, WhatsApp empowers customers to share images and videos, enhancing context and issue clarity for more precise and effective assistance, ultimately leading to enhanced customer experiences.
The provided image highlights distinctions between WhatsApp and SMS for customer support. WhatsApp emerges as a superior support channel, offering free user-initiated conversations, image and video context, and delivery and read receipts.
WhatsApp’s automation potential allows businesses to create interactive messages, streamlining the customer journey and reducing agent workload. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) find efficient use through WhatsApp automation, empowering customers for self-service. Additionally, enabling WhatsApp read receipts provides customers with transparency and confidence that their concerns are being addressed.
Moving forward, let’s explore how WhatsApp stacks up against SMS for marketing messages.
Marketing & Remarketing
For a considerable time, SMS marketing served as the primary marketing channel for numerous businesses. Currently, a subset of businesses primarily utilizes SMS for marketing endeavours. Additionally, it finds application in specific scenarios where its attributes are most fitting. Despite its limitations, SMS ensures data security, as it is less susceptible to interception compared to messages transmitted over data networks. Consequently, SMS communication remains relevant for:
OTPs – Banks and financial institutions employ SMS to convey one-time passwords as a component of two-factor authentication.
Account recovery – Recovery codes for email and similar accounts are shared via SMS, verifying the account holder’s identity and intentions.
SMS marketing – Bulk SMS messages are employed for business offers, sign-up requests, demonstrations, walk-in promotions, and more.
In contrast, WhatsApp introduces a plethora of business-centric features that revolutionize outreach, prospecting, lead generation, and customer support. Unlike SMS, WhatsApp enables businesses to communicate as distinct entities rather than individual senders. It facilitates the transmission of product catalogues, pre-set responses for frequently asked questions (FAQs), and more. With WhatsApp, customer communication becomes seamless and interactive, in stark contrast to SMS, often restricted to one-way communication. Moreover, businesses can even create WhatsApp chatbots to provide a top-tier customer experience.
Why ‘NOW’ is the Ideal Moment to Transition to WhatsApp for Business
Amidst its merits, does SMS have a place in WhatsApp’s future trajectory? Not quite. As previously discussed, SMS might serve as a fallback or interim solution when WhatsApp is inaccessible (e.g., no data connection).
Millennials thrive on real-time social connectivity and consistently engaged with various social media channels. Consequently, they expect synchronous, instantaneous communication—especially when interacting with businesses for inquiries or post-sales support.
WhatsApp seamlessly aligns with this expectation, as real-time communication is its inherent feature. Businesses can engage in direct, real-time conversations with customers, disseminating sought-after information or assisting with support queries promptly.
Preeminent Communication Platform
As the preferred communication platform, WhatsApp is indispensable for business interaction. Moreover, it eradicates the need for users to install a new app. Customers can utilize their personal WhatsApp accounts to engage with businesses, eliminating communication friction.
Efficient FAQ Responses
Managing a high volume of repetitive customer queries poses a challenge in customer support. While FAQs on a website offer some relief, many customers might not visit the site to find solutions.
Enter WhatsApp: Businesses can swiftly provide canned responses to frequently asked questions, furnishing customers with instant answers while sparing support agents from repetitive tasks.
Embedded Product Catalog
WhatsApp transforms into a micro-hub where customers peruse product catalogues. Businesses can upload comprehensive product details, including images, descriptions, and pricing. This facilitates tailored contextual conversations with customers and optimizes lead generation.
Round-the-Clock Customer Support
WhatsApp for business permits auto-replies or away messages to acknowledge incoming messages. Additionally, WhatsApp chatbots can simulate human-like interactions using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to grasp user sentiments, and queries, and deliver pertinent responses. Remarkably, they operate 24/7, unceasingly catering to businesses spanning multiple time zones.
Cost-Effective Customer Interaction
Integrating a WhatsApp business account is budget-friendly. It doesn’t necessitate extensive app development or integrations. While augmenting functionality through integrations is possible, it’s not essential for basic operations. As a result, the expense associated with using WhatsApp for customer support or lead generation remains minimal.
Elevating the Transition with authkey.io
In this journey towards enhanced business communication, platforms like authkey.io play a pivotal role. Authkey.io simplifies the process of obtaining a WhatsApp Business API account, streamlining the transition and allowing businesses to harness the full potential of WhatsApp’s features. By facilitating seamless setup, authkey.io empowers businesses to unlock the benefits of real-time communication, personalized interactions, efficient support, and cost-effective engagement. With authkey.io, the transition to WhatsApp for business becomes even more accessible and impactful.