It is the era of communication and messaging apps are playing a big role in it. Compared to text messages, messaging apps are getting more traction. There are many reasons for the same. Messaging apps provide a free alternative to text messages. Most apps work on Wi-Fi. Sending a message through an app doesn’t cost anything extra. It is all covered in the data plan.
The graph shown above has the status of global mobile messenger apps and its users as on January 2016. Different messaging apps have different features like group chats, provision for video and audio messages, attractive emojis, stickers, and emoticons.
Let’s look at the trends we have spotted in the message app landscape.
More Users than Social Networks
Social media networks do compete with messaging apps but have started falling short as millennials find messaging apps more convenient, more engaging and more fun.
According to Business Insider, the top four messaging apps have the same number of users as the top four social networks. And we are talking about a lot of users. About 2.125 billion users actually, which is a lot.
Chat apps have a user demographic that is very attractive to marketers, advertisers, and brands. Combined user base of the top four message apps is larger than the combined user base of the top four social networks, it means there is a trend of users engaging more and more with message apps. Chat apps have higher retention and usage rates. Falling data prices, cheaper devices and improved features are helping the growth of these apps.
Messaging Apps Are Evolving
Messaging Apps are slowly adding muscles. Users log into messaging apps to chat with their friends, to connect with brands, to browse merchandise and to watch content. Earlier brands focussed on social networks for promotion and advertising but the trend has slowly included chat apps and now brands are not hesitant to interact on one on one basis with message app users to promote their services and goods. Messaging apps have evolved from being simple services for exchanging messages, pictures, videos and GIFs to apps that now are big ecosystems with developers, apps and API’s which support brands. They have interesting monetization strategies.
Let’s look at an app LINE. In Japan the message App LINE is very popular. Users can make free voice calls and send free text messages from anywhere in the world. It is now being used in 230 countries. It has over 560 million registered users worldwide. Companies, brands, and artists can pay and have an official account on LINE. Engagement rate is high and 55.8% of messages that are sent on LINE are read. 31.6% of coupons sent over the app are redeemed. LINE has free and paid stickers - animations some of them with sounds, to be used in chat. It is working on LINE games. It has a mobile payment system - LINE Pay and a taxi aggregation business similar to Uber, LINE Taxi.
Messaging Apps as A Company’s Communication and Customer Service Strategy
WeChat is now being used in China to book train tickets, to do the laundry, to order dinner and to play video games. It works as a remote control for your smart home and a bank. Gaming Corporation Caesars Entertainment partnered with WeChat for the convenience of their guests in their Las Vegas hotel LINQ. The app is available in both Mandarin and English. LINQ guests can now control the environment of their hotel room with the app WeChat. It is a good strategy to target the users of WeChat. In future, Caesar will be introducing both a booking and payment system through WeChat. Approximately 5 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit Caesar hotel destinations in 2016. Caesar sees WeChat as one of their most important communication tools to reach out to its prospective customers.
We could see similar trends of other brands and companies integrating with a messaging app to use its user base.
Messaging Apps as a Tool of E-commerce
Kik is a messaging app with more than 240 million users. It is mostly used by the teens in the United States. Young mobile users use less number of apps but spend more time with their go-to apps. These go-to apps are gaming and messaging apps as studied by Swyft Marketing agency that worked with 1-800-Flowers, a client to launch a campaign on Kik. The transaction begins with the user choosing flowers to send. The conversation then starts with a representative which is soon followed by the order. The payments follow and then the delivery to the person chosen by the user. Interactions differ a bit; there is no push of logos and sales notifications. A messaging app is a one-to-one communication. If the businesses understand the nuances, the apps can fuel businesses.
Messaging Apps as a Tool of Promotion
It started with Paul McCartney and Line. Paul McCartney has a sizable following on LINE. He sold sound stickers he recorded for his fans to coincide with McCartney’s tour of Japan. Paul recorded a variety of phrases in both English and Japanese before going off on tours. The recordings were then combined with 24 illustrated stickers designed to convey a wide range of daily expressions. These sound stickers sets could then be bought and used by his fans in normal everyday texts. In 2013 and 2014 soundless sticker sets were released within LINE.
Ariana Grande also used the similar sticker strategy. One Direction, the UK boy band used Kik’s digital stickers. These digital stickers were then shared by the fans promoting the band.
Customization of Texts with Emojis
Growing use of messaging and chat apps have also shown an interesting trend. Users want to customize their texts. They are increasingly using different kinds of emojis and sounds to make their texts interesting. According to Meltwater, 25-29 years old use more emojis (75.9%) than under 25-year-olds (72.2%). 92% of the online population uses emojis. Almost 60% of women report using emojis while only 41% of men reported the same.
The growing popularity of messaging apps presents an opportunity for the Mobile App Developers. Mobile messaging apps have huge user base; low data prices have been fuelling their growth. Message apps have been evolving and have become the ecosystems that support other services on their own. They now focus on leveraging and monetizing the massive user bases that they have. Companies and brands are not hesitant in integrating their offerings and services with the messaging app. Celebrities use messaging apps for promotions. Apps like LINE, Kakao Talk have successful strategies of monetization. Messaging apps will continue to evolve and will attract more and more brands and companies which will be able to leverage their user base with distinct demography. App Developers should look out to these up and coming trends and seize the maximum by partnering with brands, companies, and startups.