Create message templates for WhatsApp

A Message Template (previously called Highly Structured Message / HSM) is a template that is required to be used in your first outbound message in a session to a customer. WhatsApp must approve your message template before you can start sending them. These are used because of limitations to how WhatsApp would like brands to use the channel. By approving each template, they can ensure the channel is not being used for:

  • Sales discounts, promotions or offers.
  • Brands asking for reviews or surveys.
  • Brands advertising products, services or events the customer may like (whether or not it is based on purchasing or browsing behaviour).

Instead, WhatsApp encourages brands to send messages on the channel that improve the customer experience.

Understanding message templates and the approval process

When it comes to crafting your message template, there are a few things to bear in mind. The first is that all message templates are approved on a case-by-case basis. What may be approved for one company, maybe rejected for yours. It will most likely take a few attempts to get your message template approved. This is normal, and part of the process for brands of every size.

The best way to improve the likelihood of your message templates being approved is to: 

  • Make sure your use cases for messaging comply with WhatsApp's Business Policy
  • Make sure your message templates fit the use case you have submitted
  • Make sure you select the template category that best suits your use case (seen below)
  • Ensure your message could not be perceived as marketing by WhatsApp
  • Craft templates that add value for your customer and their experience on WhatsApp

dotdigital will keep you informed about the review status of your message templates at every stage, but WhatsApp does not give feedback as to why they may be rejected. However, as a WhatsApp Solutions Provider, we can offer our guidance as to where we think there might have been an issue. 

Our advice:

  • Stay patient! Remember the opportunity and reach that WhatsApp will allow you to have.
  • A little bit of tweaking can go a long way. Sometimes just altering a word in a template can make all the difference.
  • Keep your customer in mind and the value you can bring to them with your message template.
  • Remember: WhatsApp is a conversational channel, and customers that either reply to your message template or come in independently to the channel can speak to your agents without restriction (no message templates, and no ban on marketing!).

Message template categories

 Template category Allowed use case Examples
 ACCOUNT_UPDATE Notify the message recipient of a change to their account settings.  
  • Profile has changed
  • Preferences are updated
  • Settings have changed
  • Membership has expired
  • Password has changed
 PAYMENT_UPDATE Notify the message recipient of a payment update for an existing transaction.
  •  Send a receipt
  • Send an out-of-stock notification Notify an auction has ended
  • Status on a payment transaction has changed
 PERSONAL_FINANCE_UPDATE  Confirm a message recipient’s
financial activity.
  •  Bill-pay reminders
  • Scheduled payment reminder
  • Payment receipt notification
  • Funds transfer confirmation or update
  • Other transactional activities in financial services
 SHIPPING_UPDATE Notify the message recipient of a change in shipping status for a product that has already been purchased.
  • Product is shipped
  • Status changes to in-transit
  • Product is delivered
  • Shipment is delayed
 RESERVATION_UPDATE Notify the message recipient of updates to an existing reservation.
  •  Itinerary changes
  • Location changes
  • Cancellation is confirmed
  • Hotel booking is cancelled
  • Car rental pick-up time changes
  • Room upgrade is confirmed
 APPOINTMENT_UPDATE Notify the message recipient of a change to an existing appointment.
  •  Appointment time changes
  • Appointment location changes
  • Appointment is cancelled
 TRANSPORATION_UPDATE Notify the message recipient of updates to an existing transportation reservation.
  •  Flight status changes
  • Ride is cancelled
  • Trip is started
  • Ferry has arrived
 TICKET_UPDATE Send the message recipient updates or reminders for an event for which a person already has a ticket.
  •  Concert start time changes
  • Event location changes
  • Show is cancelled
  • A refund opportunity is made available
 ISSUE_RESOLUTION Notify the message recipient of an update to a customer service issue that was initiated in a Messenger conversation,
following a transaction.
  •  Issue is resolved
  • Issue status is updated
  • Issue requires a request for additional information
 ALERT Notify the message recipient of something informational
  •  Business hours/hours of availability
  • Check-in/Check-out times


Media content in message templates

Certain template structures allow media (documents or images) to be added to a template, allowing for richer interactions with customers. These can include: PDFs with monthly statements, boarding passes, or images of the products customers have purchased. 

To use media in message templates:

  • Images and documents must be a maximum file size of 64 MB
  • Images must also be within an aspect ratio of 1.91:1 and in JPG, JPEG or PNG format
  • Documents can be any valid MIME-type
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