I/ Messaging app are the apps we use the most
Even if our smartphone is full of apps, the top 5 apps represent more than 50% of the time spent on our smartphone. The social media and messaging apps are leaders in that field.
It actually means that we tend to use only a few favorite applications in our daily life, especially social media and messaging app because they already answer to many needs. Moreover, Gartner studies established in 2017 that there was a global stagnation in the number of downloaded apps:
“Consumers are getting less interested in using applications; there are far too many applications
Some of the surveys that we’re doing we see that there’s a stabilization in terms of app usage”.
In the same report, they affirmed that messaging apps will become more popular than social media apps within the next two years. Nonetheless, it already happened in term of active users number as we can see on the chart below:
Since 2015, messaging apps have surpassed social media apps in terms of monthly active users.
For instance, Facebook, which is the owner of Messenger and WhatsApp represent more than 2 billions of active users today.
Messaging apps market is an oligopoly. Leaders are extremely powerful, the number of active users is their principal strength. Their objective is to make this number grow, as reflected in the “Snapchat war” against Facebook. By copying Snapchat features (lenses and stories) on Instagram & Messenger, the Facebook strategy was successful as people are now using Instagram’s stories rather than Snapchat’s. In a way, Facebook stole Snapchat users.
However, the US giant has to face Wechat, the massive and innovative Chinese messaging app with nearly 1 billion active users. They have known an exponential growth since 2011. This success is first explained by the China policy that encourages national companies and excludes Facebook but also the incredible number of services provided by the app which makes Wechat a revolution
Number of WeChat active users
Messaging app will have an even more important role in our daily life due to the rise of voice command. In the long term, it will certainly become our dedicated interface to discuss with both humans and robots.
Indeed, Gartner previously flagged the rising consumer interest in voice-driven devices and services.
“Between 2016 and 2021, we expect the chatbot marketing to grow at a compound rate of 35.2%.” (Marketsandmarkets, 2017)
Another big thing in the new tech trend is IoT. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020.
The communication with IoT is going to be possible also through central applications like messaging apps, otherwise, we will have apps for thousands of things (connected light, car, window…).
This is why there are big opportunities for messaging apps like Messenger or Wechat.
II/ The Chinese giant of Tencent WeChat is leading the trend
Wechat is THE all-in-one app that seduced the Chinese market and inspired the latest Facebook technological updates.
It is hard to define Wechat. It’s not just a messaging app, it’s a mobile news reading app, a blogging platform, it’s your new online storefront, a mobile wallet, a resume, a food delivery platform, and it even has a laundry service called Edaixi!
Some on-demand services provided by WeChat
WeChat services are efficient, accessible and easy to use. Anybody can pay directly with Wechat, from the independent grocery to global brands, even Galerie Lafayette in France has included Wechat payment services.
WeChat has quickly understood the IoT revolution. Recently “WeChat launched a new API specifically for smart devices […]The new WeChat API opens up even more possibilities to connected hardware makers”
Then, the app is now working on e-commerce by launching its own platform integrated into the app: “As of late May, anyone can set up their own store inside WeChat.” Wechat, overdominant in China has now the western world to seduce, and a giant challenger is already here: Facebook.
Some financial movement already shows the Chinese strategy to invest the western market such as the Tencent recent investment in Snapchat.
III/ Facebook is copying WeChat strategy
Facebook latest innovations are inspired by WeChat features.
” Can WeChat’s ‘super app’ model be replicated in the West? After all, China’s firewalled Internet and differences in cultural attitudes could also be playing a role in WeChat’s success. But Ekholm [the research director] reckons it’s only a matter of time before the US has its own WeChat-esque go-to platform.”
This is why 2017 has been an intense year for Messenger, the US platform. Firstly, the peer-to-peer payment was launched in 2017 in Europe (it existed since 2015 in the US), it is now possible to send money to your friends by using the application.
Then, we are attending to a huge rise of chatbot on the platform. Launched in April 2016, after one year there is now 100.000 bots available on the platform. No need to say that some of chatbots functionalities will replace standard application. In addition, Facebook has recently developed a plug-in to link a messenger bot to a website. Like WeChat, Messenger is now open-to-business and chatbot will help in the purchase funnel on e-commerce websites for instance.
Messenger is also betting on artificial intelligence to make the difference. The virtual assistant M was also launched in April 2017. Because of its language recognition, it can propose some services or CTA into the conversation like a call, GPS, taxi to users. It is still an early stage for M but we guess that new options and possibilities will appear in 2018. As Techcrunch wrote: “ But that’s why Facebook is so distinctly well-equipped. It has money. Not quite Google or Apple money, but with $4 billion in revenue and around $700 million in profit last quarter, Facebook has resources to throw at M.”
As a leader in its market, Facebook has time and money to spend on R&D to boost its messaging app.
“It also has time. Facebook’s ownership of both Messenger and the 800 million-user WhatsApp gives it a decisive lead in messaging. It doesn’t have to worry about falling further behind while it concentrates on R&D.”
With both Messenger and WhatsApp in its possession, Facebook has arguably the best ways to leverage a chat-based personal assistant.
Messaging apps have the opportunity to become a “central application” by providing standard app services directly into their platform through Bots and API. Users are looking for an all-in-one solution where they can pay, travel, search, organize their day…and platform as Messenger or Wechat could fit with those needs.
Then, after connecting people to people, people to chatbot those platform are working on connecting people to IoT.Voice command innovations will be also a huge challenge for those actors.
Wechat has set the trends and conquered a market, whereas Facebook has enough resources and users to scale WeChat functionality worldwide.