You need opt-in to initiate messages

Neelke Stadler Updated by Neelke Stadler

All messages initiated by organisations via WhatsApp require user opt-in. Here’s what you need to know.

Before you start chatting to users on your new WhatsApp chat service, you’ll have to ensure that they’ve opted-in to receive messages from you via this platform. If you don’t receive opt-in from your users, you stand to lose your WhatsApp number, so make sure you’re 100% familiar with what’s required. It’s also your responsibility as an organisation to safely store your user opt-ins. 

Note, however, that you don’t need user consent if your service is entirely based on session messages. Many organisations start off like this, but soon discover instances where it’s important to re-engage with users outside of the 24-hour window period. Even if your service has a 100% pull-based strategy, you need to make sure you understand the opt-in policy. 

A simplified opt-in policy

WhatsApp recently simplified their opt-in policy to make it easier for users to receive helpful information from organisations. There are now three rules you need to adhere to:  

  • Your organisation must make it clear that the user is opting-in to receive messages from you via WhatsApp.
  • You must clearly state the name of the organisation that the user will be receiving messages from.
  • You must comply with the local, applicable law.

If you were accustomed to the previous policy, this is what has changed:

  • In the past, organisations had to get user consent via third-party channels (i.e. outside of the app), but this is no longer a requirement. You can now ask for consent in WhatsApp.
  • Previously, opt-in permissions had to be obtained in-line and it had to be contextually relevant to your user flow (e.g. such as during a purchase flow). This is no longer important. 
  • Organisations also no longer have to include a visual element such as a tick box next to the WhatsApp name and logo to get user consent.
  • Users no longer have to be able to edit the number that’s used for opt-in. 
Visit the official WhatsApp guides.

Collect opt-in wherever is best for your users 

With the new policy, it’s up to you where you get user opt-in. This will ultimately depend on what works for your users. For example, users can give their consent via:

  • A WhatsApp thread 
  • Your website 
  • An SMS short code 
  • Interactive voice response (i.e. where a computer does the talking and a user gives consent via their phone’s keypad)
  • A customer-service call 
  • In person 
  • During a transaction process 
  • A messenger bot 
  • Ads that click to WhatsApp 
  • A QR code 

The example below shows you how you can get opt-in during a WhatsApp conversation with a user:

Don’t forget the rule of thumb that we shared in our rules of engagement article: let the user drive the journey. To learn how to get user consent in, continue reading here.

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