Its here & it rocks!
WhatsApp released its much awaited feature a few months back - interactive templates! In this post, we will review what it is, how it can be used & some limitations
What is an interactive template?
Interactive templates are messages that encourage interactivity, i.e. buttons that you can click on. Other messaging channels like Facebook Messenger already have several interactive message-types (like cards, quick-replies, carousels etc), but WhatsApp introduced this only recently.
Why is it useful?
As a mobile-first messaging app, having the ability to interact via buttons is highly engaging for users. Businesses can use these templates to prompt choices that their users can click on, rather than typing. For instance, our customers have observed a response rate of as high as 30% when sending NPS surveys via interactive templates
Interestingly, these templates can be sent only via the WhatsApp for Business API & not from one person to another via the mobile app.
Interactive templates come with a bunch of built-in capabilities:
- You can embed interactive buttons in either text templates or media templates. So, you could have text + buttons or image/PDF + text + buttons or image/PDF + buttons
- At most 3 buttons can be included in an interactive template
- Buttons belong to type Postback or Call To Action
- Postback buttons sends a "payload" back via the API when the user clicks on the button. This payload can be configured even during runtime and can be used to programmatically interpret the user-response & trigger say a chatbot flow. The button display text must be specified at the time of template submission for approval and cannot be changed subsequently
- Call To Action buttons are of 2 types: URL & Phone Call. When the user clicks on a URL button, the phone's browser opens the underlying URL. If its a phone-call button, the phone's OS tries to call the underlying number. For both these button-types, the button text must be specified at the time of template submission for approval and cannot be changed subsequently. For the Phone Call button type, the phone number must be specified at the time of template submission and cannot be changed. For the URL button type, the base domain URL must be submitted at the time of template submission. The only allowed parameter is what comes after the "/" at the end of the URL
- An interactive template can only contain buttons of one type: either Postback or Call To Action
Though interactive templates encourage highly engaging conversations, they currently suffer from a couple of glaring limitations:
- Approval: each interactive template must be submitted to Facebook for approval. Even ones that you might want to send as part of an active conversation. Coupled with the likelihood that templates can get rejected, this makes their usage cumbersome & often annoying. For example: you may want your chatbot to send an interactive template that says, "Click the button below to know more about our programs", in response to a user inquiry. But, since the above message needs to be submitted as a standalone template (without any context), Facebook's algorithms might reject it. So, use these interactive templates for primarily business initiated messages. For conversational messages, ensure that these templates have well written text that includes context. What's needed from Facebook is an API call structure to send this message-type as part of a regular conversation (just like how we can send images, text etc)
- Parameterization (or the lack of it): Like mentioned above, the level of parameterization is limited compared to say Apple Business Chat, Google Business Messages or even Facebook Messenger: the button look & feel cannot be configured, their display text cannot be dynamically changed, phone numbers are static & URLs have limited parameterization. All these make the templates contextually-inflexible. Example: if you want to send an interactive template to allow a user to talk to a gym-trainer, you cannot make the number dynamic depending on who the trainer is!
Overall, interactive templates are a great addition to WhatsApp business APIs. We encourage all of our customers to use it where possible. If Facebook addresses the limitations mentioned above, a lot of value can be unlocked