Mo­bile mes­sag­ing apps: A global growth phe­nom­e­non

Finweek English Edition - - IN BRIEF - BY JES­SICA HUB­BARD

Many of us can­not fathom a world with­out mo­bile mes­sag­ing apps. For South Africans, What­sApp has re­placed Black­Berry Mes­sen­ger (BBM) as the app of choice. Ac­cord­ing to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of tech­nol­ogy consu l t a nc y World Wide Worx, What­sApp has sur­passed t he 12m mark i n SA, with r i va l WeChat hov­er­ing at around 5m users ( BBM and Mxit are both on course to drop be­low 4m users this year, based on rough es­ti­mates).

Our ad­dic­tion to in­stant mes­sag­ing ref lects a global trend – ac­cord­ing to Flurry, a US-based mo­bile an­a­lyt­ics firm, the use of mo­bile mes­sag­ing apps grew by 103% world­wide dur­ing 2014.

Face­book- owned What­sApp i s ar­guably the lead­ing ser­vice, with more than 700m monthly ac­tive users, while other popular op­tions in­clude WeChat, with well over 400m monthly ac­tive users; Viber, which re­ports it has more than 200m monthly vis­i­tors; and Line, Ja­pan’s most popular mes­sag­ing app, with 170m users.

SO, WHAT IS DRIV­ING OUR FIX­A­TION ON TH­ESE APPS?

Goldstuck be­lieves that it has a lot to do with what he calls the “net­work ef­fect”, and the ease of use that they of­fer. “The key to What­sApp is that it’s so user-friendly and it ’s sim­ple to add peo­ple onto your What­sApp – all you need is their cell num­ber,” he ex­plains. “On other plat­forms, like BBM, you have to i nvite some­one to connect with you, which doesn’t lend it­self to ‘ f ind­abil­ity’.”

The ‘ f ind­abil­ity’ fac­tor could also be a ma­jor rea­son why ri­val WeChat, owned by the Chi­nese in­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent*, hasn’t been able to chal­lenge What­sApp in SA – at the mo­ment, South Africans “don’t f ind enough other peo­ple on it”, says Goldstuck.

MORE THAN A MES­SEN­GER

When look­ing ahead at the po­ten­tial fu­ture of th­ese apps, how­ever, WeChat is pi­o­neer­ing an en­tirely dif­fer­ent con­cept to its ri­vals: it is es­sen­tially a so­cial plat­form, with in­stant mes­sag­ing be­ing merely one of many ser­vices it of­fers.

In China, for ex­am­ple, WeChat is used to make pay­ments, book plane tick­ets and play games – among many other things. Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts, WeChat i s now one of t he ma­jor por­tals for Chi­nese con­sumers to f ind new mo­bile games – last quar­ter, Ten­cent’s mo­bile games rev­enue alone was around $420m (R4.8bn).

I n S A , We C h a t ’ s u n i q u e mi­cro­job­bing ser­vice, M4JAM (Money for Jam) is prov­ing to be popular, hav­ing hosted mul­ti­ple cam­paigns for over 40 ma­jor lo­cal brands since its launch six months ago.

“Mi­cro­job­bing is the big suc­cess story [for WeChat in SA] thus far, and it re­veals the ex­tent to which WeChat can be adapted to lo­cal ser­vices and needs,” adds Goldstuck. *Naspers owns a stake in Ten­cent. Me­dia24, which pub­lishes Finweek, is a sub­sidiary of Naspers.

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