Our Messaging App Index released in July raised great interest, as it showed how our data can be used to track the total market and competition around messaging apps. The data revealed that Instagram (58M monthly users) had surpassed Skype (45M), only 6 apps in the top 30 list have PC users, and Mozilla Thunderbird beat all other messaging apps in average monthly usage time with almost 22 hours per user per month. But, what will the future hold for these messaging apps, and what is their likely evolution?
One very interesting point to note is that all the leading messaging apps in the Index are very much still about messaging only – be it SMS, multimedia messaging, instant messaging, chat apps, image sharing apps, email and so on. Each app that hits the top 20 list in the U.S., is fairly focused in terms of the use case and available features. What is so interesting about this conclusion? The fact is that in many of the Asian countries, the leading messaging apps such as WeChat, Line and QQ have innovated and refactored the user experience. They are not only about messaging; they have built themselves into digital hubs. You can use these services, for example, to make mobile payments in a bar in Tokyo, or order transportation to the Pudong Airport in Shanghai from your hotel, or to check if the nice jacket in a Seoul mall would be cheaper online. In Asia, these messaging apps are all inclusive digital portals – potentially challenging operating systems, search, and/or social media platforms in terms of their relevancy to consumers.
None of the Western messaging apps on our top list have been able to re-engineer or accelerate their execution to dimensions mentioned above – yet. On the other hand, however, Asian messaging apps have not had a significant success outside of their home markets. The question is: which one of these things going to change? Will Snapchat get into the business of providing payment services or ecommerce functionality? Or will WeChat and Line gain market share in the U.S. and grow their user base into tens of millions rather than just millions?
As six out of the top 10 mobile apps globally are about messaging, the potential for these apps to play a major part of the consumer’s day in life, even outside of messaging, is definitely huge. The app that is able to fulfill all of the frequent daily use cases needed (payments, search, transportation, communications etc.), could become the new digital hub. Yahoo was in that position with their web portal in the 90s, Google took the lead with their dominance in search, after which Facebook conquered the world with social media. Are messaging apps the next killer platform?
There are definitely players from credit card companies (AMEX, VISA), carriers (Verizon, Vodafone, Singtel), device platforms (Samsung, Google, Apple) and the Internet giants (Facebook, Google, Yahoo), who would like to rule in tomorrow’s world. Our data confirms that consumers today download multiple apps, but they only use a relatively focused set of apps on a daily basis. The success and use of an app is all about the convenience and value it brings to a consumer’s daily life – which presents an opportunity for the messaging app companies to make the next killer “operating system” happen.
Unlike the credit card companies and carriers, messaging app companies have some of the key ingredients available to them including access to the consumer 24/7, personalized nature of the app user experience, possibility for personal targeting and analytics, contextuality and social linkage. Like Mary Meeker said in her latest 2015 Internet Trends report this year: “Messaging leaders are aiming to create cross-platform operating systems that are context-persistent communications hubs for more and more services”.
Stay tuned for an updated Verto Index on Messaging Apps in a few months, and let’s see how the world has evolved around them!