This article is part of CMO.com’s February series about mobile. Click here for more.
Instant-messaging services are expanding into other Internet-based offerings, such as e-commerce and live streaming, as their creators look to enhance the world’s growing smartphone market. The Asia Pacific region is driving this growth in usage, providing businesses with a myriad of local and international platforms for their conversations.
In this article, we take a look at the most popular chat apps in the Asia Pacific region, their closest competitors, and the opportunities for marketers to converse with their audiences.
Two-thirds of India’s 300 million smartphone users host their online conversations on WhatsApp. The country’s top publishers in news media and entertainment now use the platform to connect with local audiences.
“In India, like you’ve seen in the rest of the world, primary content consumption has moved to social media, Facebook and WhatsApp being the biggest platforms,” said Ramakrishnan Laxman, head of digital business at ABP News Network. “We do a daily bulletin on WhatsApp, which is sent off as a broadcast list to a few people that we know, and what we’re seeing is that content going viral.”
Last month the company unveiled WhatsApp Business, which creates verified, secure profiles to connect with consumers on a one-to-one basis. Indian brands are already using the function so consumers can place orders, discover new products, and receive alerts for daily specials.
Of note, WhatsApp is facing competition from Hike Messenger, a locally owned mobile app with over 100 million users. The platform is preferred for its group chat capabilities, where users can run polls, create events, set reminders, and more. Hike Wallet is also India’s fastest-growing e-commerce channel, enabling users to buy goods, split bills, and send money.
WeChat is driving modern Chinese culture with an estimated 494 million local users. It is preinstalled on most retail smartphones and does more than connect friends and provide workplace communication; it also serves as a buyer’s platform for purchasing government bonds.
Brand presence on WeChat has become vital for retailers since users now endorse products and leave customer reviews. A recent New York Times article described how Chinese consumers in cosmopolitan cities now view cash as old hat and prefer to tap-and-go using WeChat Pay, the platform’s e-commerce function.
WeChat replaced rival Tencent’s QQ as the most popular messaging app in 2017.
While the rest of the world’s infatuation with Blackberry waned, Indonesia’s was just getting started. Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is the dominant service in Indonesia, used by 55 million smartphone owners a month.
In 2016, parent company Emtek partnered with online Asian marketplace Bukalapak to provide BBM users direct access to its service. It also recently teamed with Alibaba’s financial services affiliate, Ant Financial, to support access to gaming, video entertainment, and more. Brands are now finding a direct channel to connect with Indonesian audiences--especially retailers--through Bukalapak’s online marketplace.
Smartphone prominence has made messenger-first platforms the most popular and downloaded apps for most SEA markets, but each country has its preferred players.
In Malaysia, where over 80% of Malays own a smartphone and average three hours per day using them, 60% of chat app users choose WhatsApp to stay connected. As national internet connectivity continues to build, and with online sales growing by 15.9% year over year, brands can now use WhatsApp to create personal relationships with Malaysian consumers in an attractive market.
In the Philippines, Facebook Messenger is the leading chat app, with 46% of smartphone users, closely followed by Skype, with 32%. In 2017, Facebook teamed with mobile money app PayMaya to allow Filipinos to send money to friends, pay bills, and make cashless payments.
In Thailand, locals have embraced LINE, Japan’s major messenger, as their chat app of choice. LINE also provides Thai users with access to games, shopping, content streaming, and online payments. And unique to the country, spin-off app LINE Man provides users with access to professional services, including food delivery, product reviews, and transport.
South Korea: KakaoTalk
KakaoTalk dominates Korea’s chat app market, with over 90% of Korea's users accessing the service every month. South Korea’s high digitalisation rate has allowed the local messenger to quickly establish a regular user base of 31 million.
KakaoTalk has the bells and whistles of most other regional applications: stories, transport scheduling, electronic payment, and banking services. In 2017 the app’s mobile gift service leveraged its culture of gift-giving and exceeded 1 trillion Won in revenue for the first time. With such high engagement and many vendors already talking with locals, brands targeting South Korean consumers are well-advised to start building a platform presence quickly.
ANZ: Facebook Messenger
Given the popularity of Facebook in Western countries, it’s perhaps not surprising that the channel’s auxiliary arm, Facebook Messenger, presents as the most popular chat app in Australia (42%) and New Zealand (60%).
“We’ve seen brands use Messenger as a driver for brand awareness, launching viral campaigns to drive engagement and increase affinity,” said Stefanos Loukakos, head of Facebook’s Messenger business, in a previous interview with CMO.com. “This can be centered around an event, a launch, or a seasonal moment. Further down the funnel we’ve seen businesses generate leads and acquire new customers in a way that is more natural and conversational.”
In preparation for the 2018 Australian Open, for example, Tennis Australia designed a chat bot for Facebook Messenger to help ticket buyers identify the right day, time, and tennis match for them. Tennis Australia reported a 170% conversion increase compared with past go-to-market models.
View our infographic below, or click here to view it on SlideShare.