In Industry News

Yesterday, on the first day of its annual F8 conference, Facebook revealed the initial portion of its ten-year product roadmap. Here’s what’s clear: Facebook is dedicated to building a world where we have multiple ways to interact online and on more devices and screens than we ever thought possible. And that means a world of opportunity for consumers and businesses.

Among the most important reveals was its announcement that the company opened up its Messenger app to allow developers to build “chat bots” to assist with in-app activities from buying things to chatting with customer service. The rise of messaging apps and their development into super-app-as-a-service is a market development that Verto has been monitoring closely. In fact, we just touched on the topic of how Facebook and others are refactoring the user messaging experience last week in our piece on M&A in digital and mobile media.

The Rise of Messaging Apps

Let’s look at the data. Among U.S. adults in March 2016:
  • WhatsApp had over 19.5 million monthly unique users, and time spent per user per month was well over 6 hours.
  • Facebook Messenger had nearly 100 million monthly unique users, but time spent per user was around 33 minutes each month.
  • Another messaging market leader, Kik, while it had just over 9.5 million active, monthly adult users (Note: 40% of its users are reported to be teenagers), time spent was nearly 5 hours per month.
According to Mike Isaac of The New York Times, Kik also “introduced a ‘bot store” this month which features bots from companies like The Weather Channel (the bot delivers regular weather forecasts) and the cosmetics company Sephora (the bot offers up skincare and makeup tips). Clearly, in the messaging space, more time spent could mean more opportunity to make money or improve customer engagement.

The potential is enormous. Bots could automate customer service and could either compete or play nicely with the more sophisticated CRM systems and human-power call centers. This move would place Facebook in front of more business customers, an area in which LinkedIn tends to dominate. Novel lines of businesses and products could be built on top of these capabilities – e.g. better personal assistants, automated communications for air travelers, etc. Once you have that level of engagement, it’s easy to envision how advertising and commerce could be folded in, which is something the company plans to tackle in Q2 2016.

A Major Shift to Virtual Reality (VR)

The other key announcement was Facebook’s Virtual Reality (VR) Capture Technology – yet another way to control even a bigger share of people’s lives. In the very near future, our communications and transactions with businesses/brands and each other could take place via these networks and virtual environments.

The Surround 360 open source camera offers a way for Facebook to “get more 360-degree video in the News Feed and VR content on Oculus … by inventing its own virtual reality camera from scratch and open sourcing it so people can build their own and start shooting,” says Josh Constine of TechCrunch. The camera, which can be self-assembled, retails for $30,000.

Our data shows that while VR device ownership is still relatively small: Slightly fewer than one million people in the U.S. own one of the new virtual reality devices. So, at least for the time being, while developers and game publishers are creating games and content and building stuff for users to do, new devices won’t pose an immediate challenge to any incumbent device platforms, at least in terms of unique users. The potential disruption is more likely to occur in the way users engage with the games; how they spend money; and how games could interplay with the physical world and your real-life experiences. However, we believe many the other use cases, and the mass-market opportunity, lie further in the future. As always, we track the first entrants in the market and measure initial consumer adoption.

The Ongoing Challenge: Tracking and Measuring The Digital Consumer

Verto data has shown Facebook’s immense success adopting and building an app portfolio that tackles different consumer needs among its various demographics. The biggest challenge for Facebook is to see how deeply it can tap into consumers’ lives and whether can it build coherence (e.g. a single login) across all of the current and future digital properties.

And of course, measurement of these emerging apps, devices and environments will emerge as a key issue. How can we align the metrics with current media platforms? As consumers use and adopt these methods of communication, Verto, the first and only single-source, cross-device audience measurement solution to will be in a perfect position to provide that information.

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